A passion for education and an outstanding career as a global business leader have combined in a generous gift to support educational leadership.
Bruce Aitken, who was one of the University of Auckland’s 2014 Distinguished Alumni Award winners, and Donna Aitken, a former early childhood education teacher, have created the Aitken Foundation Fellowships in Educational Leadership. The gift was inspired by the commitment to education shown by members of their family – Bruce’s father, Alex Aitken, was Principal of Manukau Intermediate School and continued to help students in his retirement; his brother, Graeme, is Dean of Education at the University of Auckland; their sister-in-law, Sandra, is principal at Pt Chevalier Primary; and their daughter, Catherine, is a qualified teacher and owns a pre-school in Wales.
The fellowships will enable high-calibre teachers to develop their educational leadership capabilities by working at the University of Auckland’s Centre for Educational Leadership (UACEL) for one year and also by using the time to begin or continue postgraduate study. Kelly Slater, who is Deputy Principal at Stanley Bay School, in Devonport, will be the first UACEL Fellow to be funded by the Aitken Foundation Fellowships for Educational Leadership.
“I am very excited at the prospect of working with people whose work I have read and admired, while gaining further knowledge on leadership and getting to study at the same time. It is an amazing opportunity, for which I am most grateful.”
Kelly says that the experience will allow her to reflect on her current practices and then return to her school ready to trial new ideas and share what she has learnt with other leadership team members which will, in turn, develop their practice.
Bruce believes that outstanding teachers can have a life-changing impact on their students. “This is one reason why we are passionate about education,” says Bruce. “If we can help to provide teachers with the skills and support to change kids’ lives then that is something worthy of passion.”
Bruce was President and Chief Executive Officer of Vancouver-based Methanex Corporation, the world’s largest producer of methanol, until December 2012. In his Distinguished Alumni Award acceptance speech he spoke of the power of strong leadership: “A team that is well-led will always outperform a team of superstars with poor leadership.”
He believes that the same applies in education as in business.
“Leadership is leadership. I don't think it matters which segment of the economy we work in, strong leadership improves the performance of teams.
“The principals of our schools lead teams of teachers and interact with a wide range of stakeholders from students to parents to the broader community. All of the leadership tools such as setting goals, measuring performance and providing feedback are as relevant to educational leaders as they are to business leaders.”
The University of Auckland Centre for Educational Leadership is hosted by the Faculty of Education. The Centre has grown out of a strong tradition of partnership between the University and the school sector. It began with the establishment of the Principals Centre in 1985 and has now been expanded to serve other educational leaders, the early childhood sector and other regions, in its work. The Centre has also extended its range from the Auckland region and now serves the profession throughout New Zealand and internationally.
Find out more about the University of Auckland’s Centre for Educational Leadership
Pictured above: Bruce and Donna Aitken on the Routeburn Track in the South Island