In 1985, Andrea Dela Rue (nee Jenkins) walked through the gates of St Paul’s Collegiate School as one of the very first female students. Now, thirty years on, she is one of the school’s English teachers.
Dela Rue (Harington 1985-1986) moved to St Paul’s from Hillcrest High School with four other girls who transferred from Waikato Diocesan. Their arrival received mixed-reviews and was at times more controversial than welcomed.
Dela Rue says parents went as far as to “hold meetings in their home to work out how to reverse the decision”, although this bigotry went mainly unnoticed.
“We were completely oblivious to it all at the time. We knew there were some boys who didn’t want us here but on the whole we were looked after by the boys and really welcomed.”
She was the only female student in her biology class. On her first day, the head of School House – then a boarding house – came and sat with her and they “became really good friends.”
The teaching staff were very welcoming too. They adjusted their teaching methods and only got “flustered” by the male-female interaction on the odd occasion.
Dela Rue recalls a class where the topic of the day was reproduction, “Someone down the back suggested we could do a practical. That topic was quickly skipped and we went on to the next chapter.”
Despite a few minor hiccups, it didn’t take long for the girls to find their niche. They worked hard to find their place in the community. With the support of the Board and teachers like Mr Peter Gilbert a number of much-welcomed activities were introduced for the girls including sports teams and cultural activities.
Dela Rue went on to work in the corporate world, in the tertiary and health sectors, after completing an undergrad and Masters in business. Seven years ago she became a qualified teacher.
“I applied for a funded scholarship to Massey University and spent my nights studying for my Graduate Diploma in Teaching.”
She worked as a relief teacher before moving to full-time teaching when her youngest child Thomas started school. Not long after, the head of English at St Paul’s offered her a job which was “naturally an easy decision.”
It was a bit nostalgic at first for the mum of two who says it took her a while to get the hang of calling her former teacher and now colleague, Mr Peter Gilbert, by his first name.
Dela Rue’s daughter Emily currently attends St Paul’s as a Year 11 student, her son Thomas will start as a Year 9 student in 2016. Her brother, Malcom Jenkins (Hall House 1983-1987), also attended St Paul’s and is now working as the head of IT for Fisher and Paykel.