Aha! moment the best for outdoors-loving new maths teacher


New to Nayland maths teacher Deborah O’Dell was born on the North Shore of Auckland and grew up in a house there before the Harbour Bridge was built.

She says that In those days that was where all the poor people went because to get to town you had to go by ferry. “Now all the rich people live on the North Shore. So it sounds really flash but my parents brought it when they were really cheap,” Ms O’Dell said.

Ms O’Dell didn’t start off thinking she could be a teacher. Instead, she got into education by homeschooling her own four children.  “I was brought up believing that I was dumb. Because in those days you had to do really well to be a teacher and to be a nurse and things. I stayed at home and raised my four children but I needed a job and I enjoyed helping the kids at school so I thought, ‘oh I could actually become a teacher’, so I’m actually qualified to teach primary school children.”

Ms O’Dell then went on to get her teaching degree, teaching certificate and has just finished her post-graduate. She last taught in at Henderson High School in West Auckland. “I was there for about 14 years. For ten of those years I was the HOD of math’s and I was in charge of the math’s department,” she said. 

Ms O’Dell has a great mindset towards schooling.  “Everybody is smart in their own way, it’s just finding out where the problems are and getting them the help needed.” 

What Ms O’Dell enjoys about teaching is the “aha” moment when something was really difficult, then it suddenly makes sense. But she doesn’t enjoy teaching behavior, manners and teaching people to bring their equipment and sit down. “That’s not the pleasurable part of my job,” she said.

In her spare time Ms O’Dell enjoys biking and going down to the Sounds and kayaking.  She loves the water and the outdoors and has joined the waka ama group in Motueka and goes for a paddle every Sunday morning. She has just put her name down for a 20 kilometer paddle in November and is a bit nervous. “I’m sure I’m going to die!” she said.

Ms O’Dell is also a seasoned traveler, having visited America, Tahiti and Australia. “They were beautiful but they didn’t have the variety of New Zealand,” she said. She would like to go over to Perth and Tasmania but her goal for her sixtieth birthday is Alaska.

By student reporter Nina Grant