Calling time: Retiring St Joseph's School principal Trisch Inder

Local St Joseph’s School principal Trisch Inder’s pulling pin early on a 29-year teaching career to go on a ‘‘self-gifted sabbatical’’. She explains to PHILIP CHANDLER the reasoning
behind her move and elaborates on her family’s amazing historical association with the school

When Queenstown’s St Joseph’s School principal retires this month, she’s not just finishing 13 years’ involvement with the school.

Queenstown-born Trisch Inder’s also shutting the gate on a family association with the small Catholic primary school going back 99 years.

In all that time, apart from a two-year gap, the Inder family and her mum’s family, the O’Connells, have been associated with the school as either students, parents, teachers or principals.

The involvement began in 1922 when her grandparents’ oldest daughter, Mary Inder, started St Joseph’s School as a five-year-old.

Inder’s mum, Marney, attended the school and later taught there, while she herself attended for two years, from the age of nine.

After 16 years teaching on the Kapiti Coast and taking on varying roles, she joined the school in 2008 as deputy principal to principal Phil O’Connell-Cooper, her mum’s sister.

When her aunt retired the following year, Inder stepped into her shoes.

She admits it would have been nice to stay another year to mark the 100th anniversary
of her family’s involvement.

‘‘I thought about that, and I thought, ‘well, is that a reason to stay?’’’

As to why she’s retiring, she says ‘‘I always wanted to leave at the top of my game’’.

‘‘I don’t want to get to a point where I’ve used every thing up.

‘‘I feel like it’s my time, and I think Covid taught us about being really mindful about what we’re doing.’’

Turning 60 last year was also a trigger.

Inder says while she still has energy and passion, she’s going on a ‘‘self-gifted sabbatical’’.

‘‘Mum’s around, I want to have time with her, and I want to do the things that physically I’m able to — and I love travelling.’’

Interestingly, Inder’s discovered her mum — who ended up as a principal in Dunedin — also pulled the plug early on her career.

As to whether she’ll return to education, she says ‘‘it’s a question mark whether I do or not’’.

‘‘I think part of finishing and taking a sabbatical is you don’t know.

‘‘When you’re in the midst of something, it’s really hard to see anything else, so part of stopping is to kind of regroup, re-energise.’’

As for her highlights at St Joseph’s, Inder says ‘‘I’ve always liked productions and camps  and the arts’’.

She’s also got students to honour the school’s history — it was set up by Dominican sisters in 1883.

Inder says she was guided by their four pillars — prayer, excellence in learning, community and service.

However, she’s also wanted students to appreciate Queenstown’s Maori history, which she
was unaware of when she attended the school.

Early this year, for example, local kaumatua Darren Rewi taught students about that history during a boat trip with them.

Asked if religious schools aren’t a bit anachronistic in today’s secular society, Inder says: ‘‘I believe really strongly our whole person needs to be nourished and grown, and our spirituality is a key thing.

‘‘And I believe children are naturally, incredibly spiritual as well.’’

Religion, she says, ‘‘gives our kids a base for them to then make their own choices in life’’.

She’s certainly proud of how the school’s students turn out.

‘‘One of the things the Year 8s do is they take new families around the school and talk about the school, and they do that with such confidence and pride.’’

Inder’s highlights also include another sabbatical, in 2016 — she travelled to Finland, and around NZ, studying education and, in particular, opportunities for kids with special learning challenges.

Who knows, however, where her next sabbatical will take her.