We tracked down a few people from Rangitoto College and asked them to share their words of wisdom about books and life.

Who are you?
Kia Ora, my name is Carmelita Maletino and I am mostly known as Miss Maletino, everyone’s favourite English teacher at Rangitoto College. The ‘favourite’ part is up for debate. A little bit about me: I am half Samoan and half Tahitian and this is my second year teaching here at Rangitoto College. I have three brothers and one sister and so growing up, my household was never quiet. I was either trying to beat my brothers in basically everything or spoiling my sister. I was always a complete book-nerd and I have constantly enjoyed reading. Joining my primary school book club was my first extracurricular activity at school. We would read books together, write book summaries together, and eat pizza while discussing our favourite parts of a book. To this day, those are some of my fondest memories. 

What do you love about working at Rangitoto College?
Everyone, from the staff to my students, is an absolute delight. Every day is different and every day I have the chance to share my passion for my subject with my students. 

When you’re not reading, what do you love doing?
When I’m not reading, you will find me online shopping or stationery shopping. Clothes, shoes, folders, pens, highlighters—I am always on the lookout for clothing and stationery discounts. 

Do you remember reading/loving any books at school? Tell us about them.
At school, I absolutely loved the My Story collection of books. They were a series of historical novels for children written in the form of a diary. The My Story collection was a series of books about a young fictional man or woman living during an important event in history. My passion for reading and writing developed during this time because it was through reading this series of books that I began writing and keeping a journal of my own. 

What’s a book that’s changed your life/mind?
House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski. This was actually a book that was gifted to me by my Year 13 English teacher because my teacher knew that I loved horror movies. He gave it to me because it is an absolute nightmare to read. Without giving away too many spoilers, the plot is centred around a fictional documentary about a family whose house contains a seemingly endless labyrinth. The format and structure of the book are unconventional because it matches the plot. It contains footnotes with a separate plot line from the story and those footnotes contain footnotes themselves. Some pages contain only a few words or lines of text, some of the text is arranged in strange ways to mirror the events of the story and so if the characters are going down spiral-shaped stairs, the words are structured like a spiral staircase. At some points, you have to rotate the book to read it. It is completely disorienting and I love that. It is still one of my favourite books on my bookshelf and one of my most treasured gifts from my favourite high school teacher. Just knowing that you have the power to write in whatever fashion you want really confirms the power of reading and writing. 

What’s your favourite book? What do you always recommend?
I have so many. If I had to narrow it down, Fahrenheit 451 continues to be a personal favourite of mine because the novel teaches us so much about the importance of books themselves. The novel is essentially about the consequences of censorship and book burning and how that is ultimately limiting. Throughout the novel, there is an emphasis on the fact that knowledge is power in the hands of the people and I think that is beautiful. My students walk through the doors of my classroom with different elements of knowledge and so sharing that knowledge is crucial. 

Describe your perfect Saturday:
My perfect Saturday involves: 

  • No marking. 
  • No feedback. 
  • I am at my holiday house with my family. 
  • During the day, I am at the beach with a book in hand. 
  • At night, the fireplace is going and a horror movie is on.
  • Popcorn, chocolate, pizza, and nachos.  


What are some mottos you live by?
Progress, not perfection. I tell my students that nothing will ever be perfect. There are always ways to improve and so making progress is important. Developing a growth mindset is crucial. I always try to remind my students to take consistent action because their path, not just their academic pathway at school but in life and after their school years here, will always have bumps, bruises and a few detours. That is okay. Striving for progress means that you are relentless about learning, relentless about growing, and relentless about evolving. There is a lot of strength in that. 

Who are you?
Josh Bullen – I currently work as a Health and Physical Education teacher at Rangitoto College. As well as this, I also work as an Across School Leader (ASL) as part of the Mid-Bays Kāhui Ako. A particular focus for my role as an ASL is in the transition and well-being space. Working with young adults, getting to know them, supporting them, and improving their outcomes and experiences throughout school is a passion of mine, which is why I got into teaching and I am very fortunate to work in a role that targets this aspect of education. Outside of teaching, I am a family man. I am the proud father of two fantastic children. I have a daughter Millie who is seven years old and a son, Albie who is five. I am also very grateful to my amazing wife and mother of my children, Hannah. I met Hannah whilst travelling and playing rugby in the UK. She is English and now calls New Zealand home.

When you’re not reading, what do you love doing?
When I am not reading, I love being active and spending time with family and friends. I grew up playing a wide range of sports and was always up for any form of competition. Although I got involved with any sport that had a ball, my main passions were rugby and cricket. This upbringing has shaped who I am today and what I like to do with my spare time. Being active at the moment includes going to the gym, playing social cricket, playing sports with the kids, and getting outdoors. As a family we love going for bike and scooter rides, going to the beach or bush for walks, and getting out on the family SUP boards. I am also a keen, although not very consistent, golfer and love to take up any opportunity to get out on the water for a fish.

What were you doing before this role?
I had an interesting journey into teaching. After completing a Bachelor in Sport and Recreation I travelled overseas to the UK to follow a dream of mine to travel and play rugby overseas. Whilst in the UK, I worked in a range of jobs but spent the majority of my time as a builders’ labourer and a plasterer. Part of my contract with the Scarborough Rugby Club in England’s North East involved doing some rugby refereeing and youth development work in local primary and intermediate schools. I really enjoyed getting out into schools, sharing my love of being active and rugby with young students and sharing the joy that I had whilst participating. It is this experience that was the catalyst to my returning to New Zealand after three and half years in the UK and completing a Post Graduate Diploma in Teaching – Secondary. Following this, I haven’t looked back.

What was on the family bookshelf growing up?
Growing up with two older and one younger sisters meant that there was always a range of options on the bookshelf. Growing up, I remember reading a series of books called Goosebumps. I also enjoyed reading nonfiction books—I would often read books about dinosaurs or animals. Another memory that sticks with me vividly was when I was about nine years old we became the proud owners of a set of Collins Encyclopaedias. Some of you may not know what an encyclopaedia is; it is what we used before the internet to find the answers to life’s questions. I remember getting engrossed in a range of topics, like space and sea creatures, and sharing my learning with the family over the dinner table.

What’s a book that’s changed your life?
A book that changed my life was a book that was also on the family bookshelf but one that I didn’t read until I was much older. This book was about travel through Europe. I only took notice when I was in my early teens and my oldest sister started talking about going on her OE. I think it was my sister who gave me this book to read as she was growing a little tired of all my questions about her travel plans. Reading this book got me excited about other cultures and places in not only Europe but other parts of the world as well. After reading that book, my heart was set on travelling, the experiences that other cultures had to offer, and meeting new exciting people. I had not really thought about this before and it led me into reading other books about travel and different countries. I would say this book has shaped and changed my life.  I do not know where or what I would be doing if this book had not ignited my passion to travel and see the world.

What are you currently reading?
I am currently in between books. The majority of my reading at the moment is dominated by titles associated with work but also reading with and to my children. We read every night. I am currently reading a series of books with my son called Beast Quest. They are based on the adventures of Tom and his sidekick Elena who are on a quest to save and protect the beasts of Avantia. I also read or listen to my daughter reading most nights. She is an avid reader and we have recently completed the first two books of the Harry Potter series—The Philosophers Stone and The Chamber of Secrets.

What book do you always recommend?
A book that I always recommend is OPENan autobiography by Andre Agassi. I love this book as it is a very raw and honest insight into a remarkable story.

What do you love reading to your kids?
I am really looking forward to finishing off the current series we are reading with the kids. It is such a cool experience to see them using their imagination to picture what is being described in the books. This is the best part of when we read each night, asking them what they think, what has happened, and what would something look like. It has been particularly cool to have talks with Millie as we have watched the Harry Potter movies after finishing each book. It is so cool to hear her say things like “this is exactly how I imagined it” or “this is completely different to what I was thinking” and the conversation that follows.
I am also looking forward to doing some further travelling once the kids are older, so it would be really cool to get them into some books about travel or a country that we are travelling to.

What’s your favourite book?
Two of my favourite books are the ones that I am pictured with. I feel they both provide so many life lessons and connect with so many of my own memories, both good and bad. Graham Henry, The Final Word and Richie McCaw, The Open Side both take me back to memories of key times in my life. From being a Kiwi rugby player in the UK during the ‘07 quarter-final loss to France to the 2011 triumph after overcoming so many hurdles right here in NZ.

What advice do you have for teenagers today?
My advice to teenagers today would be to seek out opportunities and make the most of them, particularly if it involves meeting new and different people.

Who are you?
안녕. My name is Jiyoon and I am a Year 13 student here at Rangitoto College. Within school, I’m heavily involved in the Performing Arts Department and student leadership, and my favourite subjects tend to be English or writing centred—I love people and being creative. Lately, I’ve been mulling over my plans for after high school, or rather the lack of, and the thought of it equally excites and terrifies me. It mostly terrifies me though: to go solo, leave a sense of routine, and ultimately find my place in the world.

When you’re not reading, what do you love doing?
I always find ways to keep my mind and hands busy. My number one outlet is through the disciplines of performing arts. I love being on stage and performing for an audience as I get such a thrill out of it. 

One of my biggest passions is dance. I love social dance and creating choreography, even watching others dance pumps me with adrenaline. Dance is a discipline which helps balance my mind and body, more than just a pastime, and through this shared spirit with others, I’ve made some lifelong connections. 

I also love to sing; earlier this year, I got together with some friends to make a band for Korean Night. And just last week we got to perform the result of our hard work and preparation in front of friends and family. This was definitely a highlight of 2022 for me as it was so much fun and became an amazing bonding experience with everyone involved. I’m sure I will look back at these memories very fondly. In this way, music is another escape for me; anyone who knows me knows I constantly have my headphones in. 

Ultimately, I think I love doing the things which really tug at my heartstrings. I find myself to be extremely sentimental and nostalgic: always taking photos, looking back at them, and making collages and video projects of my friends and family. 

What’s a book you remember reading/having read to you when you were little? Tell us all about that memory.
I cannot imagine this to be an uncommon experience amongst kids who grew up loving books but I have vivid memories of reading under my covers with a torch after lights out (specifically the Geronimo Stilton series). I would go to the library after school and issue as many books as little I could carry, then bring them back home, stack them next to my pillow and start up a reading marathon almost every night. Because I shared a bunk bed with my younger sister, she would always get annoyed at the flashes of light across the ceiling of our room but each time I got ‘told off’ I would get more stealthy with it.

What are some books you’ve encountered at school?
I remember reading Catcher in the Rye in Year 11 and really loving it. It feels strange to admit as I haven’t ever been a kid who doesn’t like reading—if anything I’ve been quite the opposite—but I’ve always struggled with reading books specifically for school. It wasn’t that the assigned books were boring, that I was incapable, or even that I didn’t have enough time to sit down and read. However, just like me, I feel like a lot of students go through the phase of wanting to read (or in my case, needing to read for school), but being extremely unmotivated and not having the brainpower to pick up and finish a book. Catcher in the Rye took me out of this slump. It really shifted my perspective and the way I saw myself in literature. I think Holden really represents adolescent struggle, feeling a lack of control or agency at this point in our lives is not uncommon, so it felt easy and in fact, fitting to identify with such a character. I plan to reread it sometime soon.

What do you love about our library?
Probably the accessibility and comfort. The librarians are so amazing; they are always happy to help you out with anything you need. I remember using the library for history sources last year, and I was able to find the ones I did because I received help from the librarians who knew what I needed for my internal and more specifically, knew where I could find that information. I spend most of my free periods and lunchtimes in the library and it’s been a really nice place to study. This year, unlike the last, I’ve also been utilising the scholarship room. I wish I did last year too because the chairs in there are so nice. I think students should utilise the silent study and scholarship rooms to their advantage—especially as the Rangi Centre often gets so crowded during free periods—if they ever need somewhere quiet and comfortable to properly concentrate.

What are you currently reading?
Currently, I’m in the middle of reading Catch-22. I’ve always heard the phrase being used in films, and referenced in general pop culture and always wondered why it was so popular. Well, now that I’m aware of this crazy paradox I hope to ‘catch’ onto any and all references made about it. Although I am yet to finish it, I am finding Catch-22 really funny, embedded with characters and situations which are often so absurd and nonsensical, but that’s what makes it so good.

Why do you think people should read?
I think the biggest reason why people should read is to experience thoughts, feelings, and situations vicariously through other perspectives, namely, through the characters in literature. With books, you are able to enter different worlds, by leaving your own, and this can not only act as an escape but also a learning experience. Although it may be stating the obvious, whenever you read you can always learn something new. More often than not, you can learn a lot about yourself as when we read, we get a chance to observe, think critically, and empathise. At least for me, reading allows me to feel things that I can’t always put into words. Thus, I believe reading can become a source of self-reflection or even inspiration.

What are some mottos you live by?
I think kindness is the ultimate human quality; arguably the hardest to develop, and the most important. Other qualities, for example: being funny, witty, or intelligent, are also important and make us who we are, but I believe that learning how to be kind is the most important thing in life. Being truly kind, from the bottom of our hearts. This is because if you are kind, these other qualities become exacerbated and appreciated, while if you are not, they may eventually breed resentment. What’s even more important is to be kind to yourself, and stay true to yourself—I’m still learning to do this every day. I think growing up, I’ve always tried to change myself to fit specific expectations (or what’s considered the ‘norm’), and although this can be upsetting to reflect on, it has ultimately become one of my greatest learning experiences. Kindness, to the self and others, is so crucial and when you come across someone who is genuinely kind, they are the best people to be around.

Free choice
I recently came across a short story: Eleven, by Sandra Cisneros. To paraphrase, she says: 

“What they don’t tell you about birthdays is that when you turn a year older, you’re also all the years that came before that year.” I just turned 18, but I’m also still 17, 16, 15, 11, 7 and 1. When you wake up on your birthday, you expect to feel your new age, but you don’t. You open your eyes and everything’s just like yesterday, only it’s today. And you don’t feel your new age at all. I still feel like I’m 17, and I am— underneath the year that makes me 18. One day, I might say something silly and that’s the part of me that’s still 12. Or maybe some days I won’t trust myself, and that’s the part of me that’s 16. And for no reason at all, sometimes I need to cry like a little baby. Because the way we grow older is kind of like the rings inside a tree trunk, or those wooden dolls that fit inside the other; each year inside the next one.

As someone who gets really anxious about the future, and thinking of growing up to leave the safety of routine, home, and essentially my childhood, I found solace in this short story. Cisneros illustrates that no matter how old we get, there are still moments in life where we may feel, entirely, like a child, and more precisely that this is totally okay, and if anything, quite common. And although we continue to age, we always bring the past with us into the next chapters of our lives. In this way, I think of my birthday, instead of as a daunting signifier of time passing rapidly, as being a celebration of all the years that came before, and a welcoming of the next.

Who are you?
I am Luca Harris. I am 17 going on 18, I am a member of the 1st XV Rugby team, I study in the International Baccalaureate programme at school, and I love people (at times).

When you’re not reading, what do you love doing?
I have an unhealthy obsession with cars and anything gas related. This means I usually spend most of my time fixing and repairing my car. I also, however, enjoy plugging in my headphones and getting lost in hours of music of every genre.

What’s a book you remember reading/having read to you when you were little? Tell us all about that memory.
Power of the Sword by Wilbur Smith. When I was maybe eight or nine, I was gifted by my grandparents a novel by Wilbur Smith. Up until this point I was never really a book person and would never even think of picking up a book of my own accord. However, my father began reading it to me and would often do so up until a point at which I was so invested that I began skipping ahead. I learnt to love and create dreams out of the words on the page; I could drift away into my own world in which I felt like I was in the book. I felt as though I had unlocked memories and dreams I’d never believed, and this fueled me to continue reading every other one of Smith’s books I could get my hands on.

Tell us a brilliant book scene?
When Manfred Del La Ray wins the Olympic gold medal in boxing at the German Olympics in Berlin in 1936 (in Power of the Sword).

What are some other books you’ve loved?
Crow Moon, Pandora Rising, every Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys, all Enid Blyton, all Wilbur Smith, The Clan of the Cave Bear.

What do you love about our library?
The vast range of books that are not only limited to teen novels, but also adult novels and children’s books.

What are you currently reading?
Boy Swallows Universe, by Trent Dalton.

What’s a book you always recommend and why?
Honeybee by Craig Silvey. This book for me touched upon the harsh realities of the socially awkward life of a young teen coming of age. It exposed a very real image of the thoughts and actions of young people struggling to fit into today’s society. Although there are some very explicit and brutal moments in the novel, there is also adventure and joy. 

Where do you seek inspiration?
Through music and characters in novels that I often envy or can relate to.

Why do you think people should read?
To understand expression and emotion on alternative levels.

What advice are you grateful you’ve received?
If you get to the end of your life and can confidently say you have two real friends, then you have done well for yourself.