Ivanhoe Grammar School’s deputy principal Brendan Kelly was literally sitting on a volcano in the North Island of New Zealand when he decided he wanted to be a teacher.
“I was sitting on top of Mount Tongariro where I’d gone with a bunch of fellow geography students studying volcanology [at the University of Auckland],” Brendan says.
“We had this fantastic instructor with us. We were in this stunning setting and he was talking about how the volcano was formed and I thought, ‘He’s just brought this alive’ and it confirmed what I wanted to do.”
3 things I have learnt
1. Students matter more than subjects.
2. Everyone can improve and grow in their education.
3. In learning, everyone is passionate about something so never give up looking for that passion and spark.
The decision led Brendan to a career that has spanned 26 years over two countries and brought him to Ivanhoe Grammar School.
He has been deputy principal since January, bringing his passion for education, geology and volcanoes from Auckland, where he had been working as principal of Kristin Senior School.
While his decision to be a teacher was confirmed on top of a volcano, Brendan’s parents – who each taught him at school – also inspired his career.
“Both my parents were school principals and like a lot of kids in the beginning I thought the last thing I want to do was be a teacher because mum and dad are teachers,” Brendan says.
“But they’re great people and I really admired the work they did and, as I went through university, I realised I shared the same passion – the same desire to do the same things,” he says.
“You can see the influence they’ve had on generations of kids.
“They’ve had really meaningful lives and lives of purpose. That inspired me quite a bit.”
Brendan started teaching in 1990 at a state school in West Auckland that had 2500 students.
“The students are at the heart of my philosophy to education. The student is really the only reason I’m in the job. I want to prepare each student for the best possible future.”
He taught geography and social studies classes and says that from his first day he loved being a teacher.
“I still remember some of the names of the students in that first class. Now they’re all in their 40s, which is really great to think about,” Brendan says.
While Brendan has carved out a successful career in education, he admits he wasn’t the most dedicated student, preferring to play soccer rather than study.
“I loved sport … as a Kiwi kid who loved sport, for a long time school was just something that filled in the time between sports on a Saturday,” Brendan says.
“So as a student – in my early years – I was probably a bit of a disappointment to some of my teachers,” he says with a laugh.
It was a geography teacher who changed Brendan’s laid-back approach to schooling.
“I had an amazing geography teacher in year 11 and something really ignited and I got my passion for what I wanted to do.”
Brendan says he’s now working to help students at Ivanhoe Grammar School similarly find their passion – including his daughter who is in year 11 at the school.
While he is a native New Zealander, Brendan and his family made the move to Melbourne this year after the opportunity at Ivanhoe Grammar School became available.
He was attracted to Ivanhoe Grammar because it was an independent, co-educational school that offered the VCE and International Baccalaureate program and has a strong emphasis on internationalism.
“It seemed to be a school similar to what I came from but with more history and tradition – it’s been a great fit,” Brendan says.
About Ivanhoe Grammar School
- A co-educational, Anglican school catering for students from ELC to year 12.
- Has campuses in the lush, green surrounds of Ivanhoe and Mernda in Melbourne’s north-east.
- Aims to nourish students’ strengths and build confidence, self-esteem and character through positive education principles.