HELPING young mothers return to school and achieve their potential has been Judy Buckley’s mission for more than a decade.
After 11 years as the Murihiku Young Parents’ Learning Centre director, Mrs Buckley has decided it was now the time to retire.
The decision was not taken lightly, but she believed it was the right move for her.
“If you asked me a year ago, I would say to you I had no plans to retire.
“I believe it is better to leave a place when things are great, and honestly it is – but I think it is time.”
The Dunedin woman moved to Southland in 2010 after seeing a job advertisement for a teen parent unit director.
At the time, she told her husband she thought it was the perfect position for her.
She has always been passionate about education and helping young people to reconnect with their learning pathways was something close to her heart as she left school when she was 15.
She was not pregnant, but being a “working class kid” she needed to have an income to help at home.
“It was just what you did. The expectation, particularly for young women, wasn’t high. No-one in my family has gone to university, nobody has gone past senior high school.”
In her early 20s, Judy went back to school and completed a double degree in political science and history.
Since then, she has been dedicating her life to education in many different roles.
During the past decade, she had learned many things but one which resonated for her was everyone had a range of strengths and talents.
“Education is so important but it needs to start from where you are.
“Success does look different for many of our students,” she said.
The approach she and her team had was always trying to identify what a young person was bringing with her, what traumas she had, as well as the potential she could achieve in her professional and personal life.
“If a young woman is in a toxic relationship or was brought up among family violence, and they come to the school and they start to get confidence, this is, for me, an immeasurable success.
“They start to get confidence in themselves and they learn they are going to stop that, break those cycles.
“Somebody can be good in exams, which is great, but success can have many shapes and forms.”
She believed competition could be good, but collaboration was more important, so she hoped she had created a safe and respectful environment for the hundreds of pupils she has helped and encouraged.
And this is the thing she would miss the most.
“I’m going to miss the warmth, the love and respect that I feel here. Who can say that they come to work and that is how they feel? I feel very lucky.
“This was my job, this was my place and I can feel it in myself. This was what was meant to be.”