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Ruiterman family profile: “It’s been a total turnaround”

“The school encourages leadership even when it might not come naturally, and for Tonii it’s been a total turnaround. That’s what I wanted for my kids.”

When her youngest daughter Jaime, Year 4, eventually finishes school in Year 13, mum Kirsten Taylor-Ruiterman would have been driving through the gates of ACG Strathallan for 24 years.

Kirsten and husband Mike Ruiterman, ACG Strathallan’s rowing coach, have two daughters at the school – Jaime and Tonii, Year 12. Both girls started out at the Preschool. Kirsten chose it for its nurturing feel and structured learning, so she could relax and enjoy her time with the girls on her days off work.

She always intended to send them to a private secondary school, but it seemed natural for them to continue to ACG Strathallan Primary.

“We were already in the mode of putting money aside for their education, so we decided to just keep going and make sacrifices elsewhere,” she said.

ACG Strathallan works for the family for a number of reasons, from geography – they live in Pukekohe – to curriculum Kirsten likes that Cambridge measures performance regularly so any weaknesses can be picked up and improved on.

“At secondary, it’s so easy for students to do the bare minimum and fly under the radar. It’s easy to become a number. I liked ACG Strathallan’s traditional approach to teaching and learning – they’re measuring all the time how the kids are going and if they’re not doing well, they say ‘right, this is what we need to do.’”

The family is active in school life and enjoy the down-to-earth community of parents they’ve met through the years. Kirsten believes most parents and students at the school appreciate and value the education they’re getting and want to make the most of it by getting involved.

For the Ruitermans the benefits are evident.

While Jaime has always been an outgoing and confident student who puts her name down for everything, Tonii was naturally more reserved. She initially found the transition from primary to the secondary difficult, but as time progressed she grew in confidence and started to participate in music and other school activities.

Now she is one of only two Year 12 students in the House leadership team, she MCd a recent school assembly and she’s applying for student council. Her involvement in school life was recognised at the recent Arts and Cultural Awards evening.

Her granny, Kathy, seeing Tonii up on stage receiving her certificates, said she would never have thought that Tonii would be up there.

“She’s gone from being a shy little kid to a confident young woman who puts herself out there and even advocates for younger students,” Kirsten said. “The school encourages leadership even when it might not come naturally, and for Tonii it’s been a total turnaround. That’s what I wanted for my kids.”