by Alice Cowdrey - Marlborough Express - Blenheim,New Zealand

Kaikoura Primary School’s newest teacher is bright, full of energy and loves his job.

Mike Judd sits in his classroom with his two little goldfish swimming around a tank, and bright pieces of artwork hang from the walls. Books in little boxes sit beside a fancy looking wicker teacher’s chair and athletic looking Mike seems almost out of place in the environment.

Mike is breaking down stereotypical barriers in the town as he is the only full-time male primary school teacher in Kaikoura and doesn’t really understand why other man do not take up the career.

“It’s just such a great job. It really is.”

The 28 year old says teaching was a natural progression as people had always told him he was good with kids.

The profession was a rewarding, fun and challenging environment to be in every day and his 14 six and seven year olds were “just awesome”, he grins.

Mike is a born and brought up Waikato boy and, although he is patriotic about his home town, he is happy to be living near the sea. Being in a new town isn’t so scary for the North Islander as he has the support of his older sister Andrea Judd, who is a local doctor, and enjoys the community spirit of smaller towns.

Mike and his girlfriend, Sarah, moved to Kaikoura after Sarah got a job guiding at Whale Watch, and Mike said he was lucky there was more than one teaching vacancy at the time.

Although it was hard getting used to the big shift to begin with, he has settled in well and is chomping at the bit to experience all Kaikoura has to offer.

Mike’s experience stretches beyond New Zealand as after studying in Hamilton and teaching in the city for a while, he taught in Scotland and England for four years, which he found rewarding and not dissimilar to the New Zealand style of teaching.

Mike enjoys all age groups and the different challenges each day brings, but especially enjoys seeing younger children develop and the energy they bring to the classroom.

Mike said he had been teaching and coaching for as long as he could remember and had taken on coaching Kaikoura’s women’s rugby team. In the past he had also taught swimming, rugby and waterpolo and found it rewarding and natural to pass skills on to others.

In his spare time he likes diving and is looking forward to the rugby season getting into full swing and finding out more about how the town ticks.

The school’s principal, Bruce Pagan, says having a young male teacher is extremely beneficial for the school environment.

Apart from having someone else to talk about rugby to, Mike brought a different point of view to the place and was able to relate well to the children.

“He has a great sense of humour and lifts the school up ? not that it was ever down,” he laughs.