Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 25, November 1981


Paeroa Schools have had many outstanding Teachers, beloved by the many pupils they taught over the years. But there are two names that stand out in the history of the town and district and their impact has been so far-reaching on the lives of so many that they merit a place in the historical record provided by the Journal which seeks to preserve a heritage for posterity.

These two memorable Teachers to whom special tribute must be paid are Mr. G.H. Taylor, First Assistant and later Headmaster, and Miss Minnie Shaw, Pupil Teacher, Assistant, and Infant Mistress, whose entire teaching career was spent in the Wood Street School.


The Auckland Weekly News of 6 August 1892 records that Miss Minnie Shaw had been appointed pupil teacher at Paeroa School making four on the staff. Pupil-Teachers in those days served an apprentice-ship of four years, Miss Shaw's training being in the capable hands of the Headmaster, Walter Sullivan, and of the Infant Mistress, Miss Annie Crawford, later Mrs George Buchanan. It was a fortunate day for Paeroa when Miss Shaw was appointed to the post of Infant Mistress which she occupied until her retirement in 1925.

Miss Shaw lived in Puke Road, at the other end of the town from the School, and her daily progress along the Main Street was a quite unforgettable sight - on either side of their beloved Teacher, and spreading fan-wise in her train, like the procession following the Pied Piper of poetic legend, there trotted a retinue of adoring pupils. Businessmen stood at their shop doors to smile and to greet with pleasure and every respect the gracious leader of this unique entourage of affection. Paeroa has never before nor since witnessed anything like it.

Those of us who were taught by her can recall with clarity the "old fashioned" methods whereby we learned to read, to write, to grasp the fundamentals of arithmetic, to maintain disciplined concentration, and to develop a sense of civic responsibility. And in over fifty years of teaching, the writer has discovered no better methods than those she employed. Lord Cobham, in addressing young teachers at Auckland Teachers' Training College said: "I obstinately cling to the view that men and women whose lives are dedicated to teaching, and who are in daily contact with the young, are more likely to know how to teach than the theorist". Miss Shaw's work bore this out in unmistakable degree. She not only grounded her pupils in the all-important "basics" but also laid the foundations of character and citizenship. We even learned that those who inserted small pieces of obstructing sticks into the water-releasing apertures of the historic fountain on Primrose Hill were "vandals" without love of country or the deeds that made it great.

The writer has taught many hundreds of pupils and retains the happiest recollections of them all but the remarkable proof of the outstanding success of Miss Shaw's teaching was found in a Standard 1 class of 66 children, a dozen of them delightful Maori boys and girls, all of whom had "passed" by examination and merit from the Infant Room, Miss Shaw brought them in procession to my room at the commencement of the school year. They could all read fluently, they could all write clearly, they could all express themselves lucidly, they knew their arithmetic tables to twelve times faultlessly, their spelling set records for the school, they were keen and self-disciplined. I taught these same children again in their Standard 4, 5, and 6 years, and my records show that in all the years that followed, I never had pupils whose work equalled these whose foundations had been so faithfully laid by Miss Minnie Shaw in the Paeroa School Infant Room.

The new buildings at the Central School in Wood Street contain a part of the complex which has been named the "SHAW BLOCK" to commemorate this outstanding Teacher. She is worthy of it, more so than any Teacher among the devoted band who have so well served their day and generation.


Paeroa has had a number of popular Headmasters and at least one who made his special mark in the field of educational administration after he had moved on from the district. One had high claim to Scholastic distinction marked by his University Degrees. Another became more or less a legend in the minds of those - and they were many - who knew him. But it is no disrespect to any of these to single out the one who, perhaps with more favourable circumstances, deserves a very special place in the historical records of the town.

In our Society's second Journal (Page 7) [see Journal 2: Ohinemuri Links with Thames - E], with one correction, Wm. Hammond records: "Mr Frank Murphy was the Headmaster of the Paeroa School. He was the son of Sergeant Murphy of the Thames Police Force in the 'eighties. Frank and I were pupils together at the Kauaeranga Boys' School. Another old Thames boy Harry Pocock changed his name to Taylor when he went to teach at Paeroa". The change of name came later, for as first Assistant Master to Mr Frank Murphy, Mr G.H. Pocock taught the Standard Six class at one end of the room whilst his Head took Standard 5 at the other.

As the Society's No. 6 Journal records [see Journal 6: Paeroa Volunteer Fire Brigade (continued) - E], on August 10th, 1910, Paeroa District High School, with the exception of two rooms, was destroyed by a disastrous fire. A searching enquiry was held, as revealed by the files held by the Education Department. "Evidence was given by the Headmaster, Mr Frank Murphy; the Standard VI Teacher, Mr G.H. Pocock; the School Cleaner, and Captain Moore" of the Fire Brigade. But an indication of the calibre of the Standard VI Teacher and the keenness with which he sought to interest his pupils is found in the portion of the report which states that he was a "heavy loser of books and a private museum". Until the opening of the rebuilt school some long months later classes were held in the large corrugated drill hall adjoining.

After service in the Remuera Primary School under one of New Zealand's most enlightened and outstanding Headmasters, Mr G.H. Taylor returned to Paeroa in September 1920 as Headmaster. Here he must be remembered for his finest work. Trained in the severe discipline of his earlier years where the cane was prominent as a supposed teaching aid, Mr Taylor initiated a new era, well ahead of its time, in the Paeroa School. Discipline there still was, but it came from the happy and co-operative response of the pupils. Only those of us who had experienced the severity of the earlier methods could fully appreciate the benevolent change in the atmosphere of the school. Mr Taylor demonstrated the new approach to learning in two particularly effective ways: First by systematically teaching the various classes from Primary to High School himself in order to illustrate to Teachers the more modern techniques that brought forth the pupils' keenest interest and best effort. And his skilled teaching always stimulated interest and an eager response and inspired a desire and a willing effort to produce one's best work. What a great Teacher he was!

But secondly, Mr Taylor excelled in the vitally important work of training the young pupil-Teachers who, in those days, were attached to schools for a training period of two years before entering Teachers' College. Every morning at eight o'clock they met him in his study where they learned the principles of practical school method and the basis of Educational Theory. And these morning Classes were followed up by his systematic constructive advice and subsequent criticism of regular "special lessons" spread over all subjects and all Classes in the school. Absolute thoroughness and adequate preparation were the watch-words. At the same time he directed the pupil-Teachers' studies towards their Teachers' Certificate Examinations. How thoroughly he discharged his duty to these young Teachers just launched upon their careers. The writer of this article had the privilege of meeting Mr Taylor some time after his retirement, showing him round his large Intermediate School, and telling him that hardly a day had gone by in his whole teaching career when he had not blessed the name of G.H. Taylor to whom he owed every success. Mr Taylor's last day in the Paeroa District High School, and his last day in the teaching profession was Friday, 18th December 1931.