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Student led . . . New Ashgrove School principal Leon Van't Veen-Gibbon meets student council members to discuss the school's values. Photo: David Hill

By DAVID HILL

Ashgrove School’s new principal says he has returned “home”.

Born and bred in Canterbury, Leon Van’t Veen-Gibbon pupils having directed sold-out shows for North Canterbury Musicals when he previously lived in the region.

“It’s great to be home and Ashgrove really is the place to be. It has a really special feel about it.”

He has a long-standing relationship with North Canterbury Musicals and the Hartley School of Performing Arts as a performer and a director of the sold-out seasons of Les Miserables and Jesus Christ Superstar

Leon began his teaching career at an intermediate school in Christchurch where he spent 14 years, rising to deputy principal.

He returns home after a 10-year stint at a school in Auckland, where he served the last three years as principal.

Leon, who took over his new role in term four, says he is looking forward to getting to know the community.

“The most important thing is the relationships. Relationships mean everything in schools and I’m just getting to know a really great community.

“Coming in for the fourth term means I get to meet people, get to know the kids, the community and my staff, and to see the school in action.

“I’m looking forward to planning new and exciting things for next year.”

While he says it is too early to say what changes might be made, Leon looks forward to injecting “laughter”, his passion for the arts, and he plans to create a “localised curriculum”.

“Laughter is really important to me. Laughter is being happy and being positive, which is great for mindfulness and wellbeing. Positivity and vibrancy help a school hum,” he says.

“I have a real passion for learning through an arts lens. While reading, writing and maths are important, as is sport, I believe the arts breeds self-confidence and self belief.

“I’ve written articles about it.”

As much as he enjoys leading a school, Leon also “loves opportunities” to teach in the classroom and to work alongside the teachers and support staff.

“I want to help them to be the best teachers they can be and give them the support to do the job as well as they can.”

For now, his focus is on getting to know the school and the wider community, “and celebrating the wonderful strengths that we have, getting to know the people, respecting the past and leading today for a better tomorrow”.