“And the presidency is an elected position, so I must be doing something right,” Kerr quips. 

The passion Kerr has for her role is evident when she speaks but also in her past actions, which have led to a life of service in the education sector. 

When Kerr was first appointed as NZSTA president in 2006, she became the first Maori (Tuwharetoa and Ngati Awa) female to hold the demanding role. 

Although she is well into her third term as president of the membership-based organisation that represents the interest of 91 per cent (2,200) of the approximately 2,415 school boards of trustees in New Zealand (comprising around 18,000 individual trustees), Kerr maintains the same drive she had when she started her trustee career in 1989.

“I’ve always had a passion for education and been an advocate of making a difference. 

“I have worked in early childhood education and I started my trustee career in 1989 when my (now grown) children were going through school. 

“I was on the board at Tauhara Primary School for nine years and then when my children went to Taupo Intermediate I joined that board which I was on for six years, and then I joined the Taupo College (Taupo-nui-a-Tia College) board, which I still belong to … at one stage I was on three boards,” Kerr said.

She also serves on the board of trustees at Kuratau Primary School in Taupo, her home base when she is not commuting to Wellingtonto perform her role as president. 

The role requires her to be in Wellington Monday to Friday but much of her time is spent travelling to various parts of the country to speak at schools and functions about the function of NZSTA, Kerr says. 

Through an agreement with the Ministry of Education, NZSTA is responsible for delivering a fully integrated range of services designed to support and enhance board capability in their governance and employer role.
“I inform people that NZSTA is there to offer one on one mentoring, industrial and employment support, interventions and to work closely with the Ministry of Education and minister of the day on all levels.

“We also work with professional organisations such as the Post Primary Teachers’ Association and the New Zealand Principals Federation – it’s not always congenial but that is part of the job.” 

Other aspects to her role include helping to organise the popular annual NZSTA Conference – this year held on July 3-5, but that only takes up a small part of her time. 

She has worked on building Kiwi partnerships as well, in efforts to increase participation in education for Maori, she added. 

Kerr receives great satisfaction from performing her role, but said the greatest reward came from imparting her skills and knowledge she has acquired throughout the years, to trustees. 

“Everyone wants to know how to be an effective governor, and I am not saying I am an expert but I am able to talk to trustees about inspiration … I encourage them to ask the student what can be improved without confrontation and boards to have a ‘no blame or shame attitude’ behind it.”

Kerr adds that boards need to a desire and need to stay focus and not to get distracted by the politics of the day and to keep student achievement at the forefront of their minds when making decisions.  

Next year, NZSTA will hold their election where Kerr is hopeful of surviving a fourth term as president.  

Visit www.nzsta.org.nz for more information on the NZSTA and its services.