To ardent cricket fans, the new St. John’s College’s Deputy Principal’s name may seem familiar, and they would be right because Peter Connell made his name as an opening bowler for the Irish national cricket team.
Mr Connell, who grew up in Hastings and attended Havelock North High School before forging a teaching and cricketing career overseas, has done a full circle by returning to teach in his hometown.
From a teaching family, he began his career at Hastings Boys High School before heading over to Northern Ireland.
However, his teaching career took second place to a promising cricket career that eventually saw him make his debut for Ireland in 2008 at the age of 26. He was part of a successful Ireland team in the 2007–08 ICC Intercontinental Cup and has also played for the national team in One Day Internationals (ODIs) and Twenty20 Internationals (T20Is).
“I figured out I wasn't going to play for New Zealand, but it was a good way to travel the world. And then as it turned out when I got over there, the profile of cricket in Ireland was raised and they'd just qualified for their first World Cup. It then became a goal at that point to play for the national team.”
“I got in the team and played for about a five-year period, including at a couple of World Cups.”
Mr Connell said highlights of his career including playing against New Zealand, Australia and some of the other top cricket teams.
However, eventually, it was time to return home, where he resumed his teaching career full-time, including six years at Scots College, before being appointed St John’s Deputy Principal.
“My father went to this school, so it is great that I am here now. I have three boys and the plan is for them to come here when they are old enough.”
“I really enjoying the nature of the school and there is something special about a traditional boys’ school.”
“I certainly like the fact that the boys are out playing games during the break and lunch and that they're not stuck on devices or phones.”
Mr Connell says he is enjoying his new role, which is his first in senior management.
“I like having input into the prefect groups, the house-class systems, and the house competition. That is quite a cool part of my role. The senior management team gets on well together and I enjoy working with (Principal) Rob (Ferreira).”
He says the boys also like hearing about his sporting career in Ireland, which included playing semi-professional rugby as well as cricket.
“They like to ask questions and I certainly have lots of stories to share.”
At present Mr Connell is not playing cricket because it is quite time-consuming with a young family.
“I try and work on maybe my golf game whenever I get some free time. But having just moved from Wellington, it's been a busy term settling in the kids and getting used to life back in the Bay again.”
He says he is looking forward to this next stage in his career, which he sees as pastoral.
“There were certainly lots of the things that have happened in my past that have prepared me well for this role. I'm willing to learn and take on new things as well, because as a leader and a teacher it is important to continually be looking to improve yourself.”
“Some of my experiences were high-pressure environments, so having managed or navigated through them, it does put you in a better place to be able to just be calm and work through a solution. And I'm quite solution-focused, not problem-focused.”
For Mr Connell, it is all about the students reaching their potential, and “dreaming big dreams for themselves”.
“I certainly hope to encourage boys to dream bigger than Hawke's Bay, to dream bigger than New Zealand, to have a level of self-belief to try new things. Be prepared to fail and keep getting back up.”
An important part of achieving this is the faith environment that St John’s encourages as a Catholic school.
Apart from his role as Deputy Principal, Mr Connell also teaches, coaches the E-grade rugby team and helps coordinate the cricket programme.
Moving back to the Bay means he is also close to family.
“My mum and dad still live locally, so to be around them as they're getting older is really cool. Not only is it great for the kids to be able to bike and scooter to school but there are lots of outdoor activities on offer as well in the great Hawkes Bay climate.”