Nurturing and promoting the individual potential of a child is a serious and important responsibility.

Mark P Shanahan has made it his mission in life and as the Waitakere College Principal, he is committed and determined to draw the very best from each of his students.

We met with Mark last week and as we walked through the College, it was obvious his commitment is genuine, not just for marketing purposes.

Greeting all the students, joking in passing, reminding others of the next week’s projects, he sounded like he knew all the them. And that’s not an easy task given there are over 1300 students there.

Unlike them, Mark was not raised in West Auckland but it has always been part of his life.

His love for the West coast beaches like Piha and KareKare has made him a honorary Westie.

After graduating as a bachelor of science, Mark saw himself working in Forestry and actually fell into teaching instead. To our benefits obviously…

Mark became the Principal of Waitakere College 11 years ago and has worked very hard to bring the academic level above the national average. This year the Mark  and his team celebrated being co-winners of the Prime Minister’s Education Excellence Award for Teaching and Learning.

“This recognises the strength of our responsive curriculum adapted to student interests, e-learning programmes and our many different pathways including our Medical Science Academy. We are thrilled to receive this award, which recognises that the year on year trend of rising achievement at Waitakere College is real and ongoing, with NCEA results above national averages at all levels including Merit and Excellence endorsements.” says proud Mark.

– feature pic of PM with Mark and team

“But it’s all about relationships and showing you care” says Mark.

And care he does.

In order to constantly improve the sustainability of his College and the quality of his staff’s teaching skills, Mark takes sabbaticals. Not to go surfing or relaxing, but to explore the country and even the world seeking other schools best practises and teaching strategies. Mark has visited schools in the United Kingdom, USA, Australia as well as New Zealand from top to bottom, and has written numerous reports on the results of his investigations.

And it has paid off.

Here is the latest ERO (Education Review Report) 2017 in summary: ”Waitakere College provides high quality education. Students have opportunities to succeed through a responsive curriculum that prioritises wellbeing for learning. Students are confident and well equipped to transition into the world of tertiary study or employment. High quality leadership is a key factor in the school’s continued success.”

The students also learn from each other.

“A West Auckland school has taken global learning to another level.

Waitakere College’s diverse ethnic mix means there are plenty of experts in history, social studies and geography in the classrooms,” writes Catherine Gaffaney from the New Zealand Herald.

This year Waitakere College in Henderson had students of 55 different nationalities – from Bangladeshi to Niuean to Ugandan – attending the school.

The diverse roll was made up of exchange students, international students, students whose families had moved to New Zealand and pupils with parents of different cultures.

Principal Mark says the range of backgrounds brings richness to the school.

Determined to stay ahead of the game and always forward thinking, his main goal is to prepare his students for the big real world out there. “I want them to be world savvy!” he says.

For this, Mark applies the Vocational Pathways concept, matching education to the potential career of his students.

As a result, Mark has worked with his team to maximize the opportunities of the Gateway programme and have created a wide range of successful Vocational Pathway options for students and their families.

“We are recognised as a best practice model for our successful implementation of this programme, funded by the Tertiary Education Commission as an initiative to build a highly skilled and adaptable work force.

This provides structured work-place learning opportunities for senior students, where they are trained by the employer and gain Unit Standards that become part of their NZQA Record of Learning.  Year 12 and 13 students who take part go out to work one day a week during Terms 1, 2 and 3 to work places in their career field of interest.” says Mark.

But it is always better to hear the feedback from actual students who have lived it …

Among many, here is the testimonial from Shayne Elliott, CEO of ANZ Australia / New Zealand Group who was a student there until early ’80s.

“I joined Waitakere College when it was a new and exciting new school on the West Auckland landscape and the teachers and campus full of temporary buildings and fresh fields reflected that energy. The incomplete campus, the fresh new teachers and the pulse of West Auckland combined to feel like we were building something together, and creating new ways of learning along the way. There is no doubt in my mind that my time at Waitakere was massively influential in my life. In many ways more so than even University. I had the good fortune to be exposed to a variety of experiences, cultures and challenges that set the foundations of who I am, what I love doing and what I care about. This was a good school, with high standards, a strong culture and a sense of adventure that I am enormously grateful for.”

West Auckland should be grateful too as, after all, Mark and his College are building our next generation of successful citizens and we can only benefit from that.

Don’t hesitate to get the full picture and visit or call them on (09) 836 7890.