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

Who are you?

My name is Bill Yin. I am a Year 13 student at Rangitoto College. This year, amongst other activities, I was a Chinese emcee for Chinese Night 2022. I found an important part of my job was to balance the Chinese content alongside the English to ensure all of my audience had a great experience. As one of the representatives of the night, it was important for us to use English as a medium and keystone to promote Chinese culture inside Rangitoto College.

When you’re not reading, what do you love doing?

When I am not reading, I play some musical instruments and do some sports to improve in my other areas.

What do you love about our Library?  

The Rangitoto College Library offers some amazing books in a variety of languages and categories. I always find myself searching for something that is unexpected and brilliant.

Tell us a brilliant book memory.  

A few years ago I was reading a novel collection called The Volcano Hotel. It had a series of bizarre and uncommon settings, such as the story of a flight attendant who can foresee disasters, someone who lives in an entire city all by himself, etc. The author cleverly planted several subtle hints into each novel so that they are linked together. I, as the audience, am able to use my own imagination to figure out how the stories are linked together. Like a puzzle game created by the author where each piece of the puzzle is just unique and outstanding on its own.

You are bilingual, and speak and write both English and Mandarin Chinese fluently. Tell us about how that came to pass.

Being a bilingual person can be challenging when you are trying to overcome the language barrier while still maintaining your mother tongue. There is an element of clash here as the grammar of Chinese and English are structured in opposing ways. In China, we have compulsory English courses starting from primary school, so I did have some basics about English before I came to New Zealand, however for me to communicate here, I often find myself having to work on spoken language, and grammar. My parents provided lots of books in both languages for me and are my role models when it comes to improving myself. For people who are going through a language barrier, my advice is to read lots of English books, out loud preferably, and force yourself into a pure English environment.

Where do you seek inspiration?  

I seek inspiration from people who are better and more successful than me. I use them as a mirror to reflect on myself and what to improve on. I often find new objectives to learn and weaknesses to strengthen.

Why do you think people should read?

I prefer books that offer a brand-new perspective and experience. I think these books often offer the most and are the easiest to start reading. For instance, right now I am reading wealth and investing guru Warren Buffet’s Lifelong Advice.

What are some mottos you live by?  

Always keep a heart of discovery.

Who are you?

I’m Michael Randal, an Assistant Principal and English teacher. I’m also a dad who has very witty jokes and who isn’t at all embarrassing to his children.

What do you love about working at Rangitoto College?

One thing that I love about working at Rangitoto College is that I spend my days with a whole bunch of colleagues who love what they do and who are genuinely passionate and driven to improve themselves. Having worked in a few different jobs and sectors before I became a teacher, I know that it’s quite rare and is a real privilege to work with other people who love what they do and who are also determined over time to get better at it in big and small ways. I like how enthusiastic so many of the teachers at Rangitoto College are about getting better at teaching, and it plays a part in challenging me to continue to try to lift my own game. 

What’s a book that’s changed your life/mind?

Looking back, there’s one book that probably really influenced the direction of my life: 1984 by George Orwell. I first read it when I was about 14 or 15 and it totally changed my perception of what novels could be like, of what books can be, of what storytelling is. It’s such a grim story and the first time I read it I kind of hated it. But, as the years went by, I kept thinking back to it, and when I finally read it again, I was able to appreciate how masterful Orwell’s storytelling is, and how creatively and subtly he uses language to tell the story. 1984 really opened my eyes to the beauty and power of storytelling and language and played a big part in setting me on the path to (eventually) becoming an English teacher.

What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. I’m not really a big fan of crime or detective fiction, but Agatha Christie is so famous and was so prolific that I wanted to see what her books were like, and I also like to read classics from time to time. I’m enjoying it more than I expected to: the pacing of the story is good, and I’m trying to keep one step ahead of the detective protagonist, Hercule Poirot, as he figures out the crime. I can see why her books were so popular.

What do you love reading to your kids?

I like reading anything with my kids that expands their minds and, along the way, helps to grow their vocabulary. It means that we then sometimes end up talking about ideas and words. I’m currently reading The Hobbit with my daughter. It’s a good story and it’s great to be able to expose her to some archaic (old-fashioned) language. I’m reading Sheila K McCullagh’s Buccaneers series with my son and he loves it. The books are out of print these days and I’m so pleased that I kept my battered old copies from when I was a kid. Both of my children have particularly loved Roald Dahl’s first autobiography, Boy, about his experiences growing up in (a quite brutal) boarding school. It makes them realise that school in 2022 is pretty cushy.

Who’s your favourite author?

My two favourite authors are David Mitchell and Neil Gaiman. Even though they have very different styles, they’re both excellent storytellers. Neil Gaiman nails magic realism/Southern Gothic: his stories are both dark and creepy yet also have moments of humour and whimsy. David Mitchell’s work is diverse and, as you read his books, you start to see that he’s created this complex world that slowly knits together in subtle and interesting ways. Probably my all-out favourite book is Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. It’s a book within a book within a book within a book within a book within a book within a book within a book. Read it; you’ll see what I mean.

Describe your perfect Saturday.

My perfect Saturday is a cooked breakfast then—after that’s fully settled!—doing some exercise: either in my garage gym, going for a run in the bush with my dog, or doing some speed rope work (badly; I’m still learning). After that, it’s playing with my kids: trampoline, swim at the beach, or board game. The perfect Saturday ends with an evening with my wife, ideally going to the theatre or stand-up comedy.

What advice do you have for teenagers today?

It’s so easy to throw out some glib advice—advice that sounds good but doesn’t have much substance to it—so I’ll try to avoid that. I don’t know if this is ‘advice’ as such, but I want to remind teenagers that the phrase ‘practice makes permanent’ is just as relevant to personality and character as it is to sports, musical, and academic performance. By that, I mean that how you choose to behave – the high standards that you set for yourself and that you choose to live up to—become ‘habits’ of how you behave. In other words, choosing to practise living with integrity, courage, and respect towards others becomes, over time, permanent. If you ‘practise’ being this way, it becomes who you are. It becomes permanent. No one told me that when I was a teenager and it took me a long time to come to that realisation myself.

Who are you? 

I am Maddi Cooper-Wiki. I am a Year 10 student and an active drama student at Rangitoto College. I was born in New Zealand and grew up in Australia before moving back home. 

When you’re not reading, what do you love doing? 

When I am not reading, I enjoy writing my own works. I find writing incredibly relaxing to unwind at night and after the stress of exams that will increase next term. I also love performing in plays and productions. This year I’ve taken part in our school’s production of Macbeth, which was directed by our school’s lovely Miss Spencer-Bates and Ms Hunt. Acting allows me to take on amazing characters that I’ve either never heard of or have become familiar with from reading. I’m currently preparing for our upcoming production next year, which will be an incredible opportunity for me to take on a new character. 

Tell us a brilliant book memory.

Despite my loud personality I also like to be quiet and to myself at times. I think the fondest memory for me is when I was reading a book in my intermediate school’s library during lunch. At the time I was reading The Queen of Nothing, the final book in a trilogy, and a girl from my art class saw the book I was reading. She sat in the spare seat next to me and started talking to me about the book. This memory stuck with me because she was the first person that approached me on her own to talk with me. I may not speak to her now, but I always think of her when re-reading the book. 

What are you currently reading? 

I have just finished the first book in the Shatter Me series. I had the series recommended to me by my friends and I had seen it on TikTok and Instagram. I wanted to read the first book to see whether or not it would be able to grab my attention for the remainder of the collection. To say the least, it absolutely did. 

What’s your favourite book? 

My favourite book is The Wicked King. It was the first novel that made me feel the heartbreak and betrayal of the characters with each plot twist that came. The Wicked King is a book that makes me believe in the unknown strength of others but also to be sure to protect myself. It is set in the fantasy land of Faerie and the second book follows the journey of Jude Duarte and her rise to power despite being a human in a foreign land. However, her rise to authority is put in jeopardy because of selfishness and betrayal from those around her. The plot twist kept me on the edge of my seat the entire way through; the end of the book will shock you, to say the least. 

What is a book you always recommend?

A book that I always recommend is the novel It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover. While the book has an overall tone of romance, it addresses some more serious topics when it comes to relationships in your life, both romantic and platonic. Showing examples of childhood sweethearts and chance encounters, this book shows all the different kinds of ways that love is discovered. While the book may cause some tears and heartbreak for the readers, the message and moral of the book will remain with them for a long time after finishing her novel. While her other works have had me uninterested in reading them, I will always recommend that specific work of hers. There’s a reason it’s arguably her most popular.

Who would you love to have lunch with? 

One person I would love to have lunch with, dead or alive, would be Taika Waititi. With my love and passion for acting, I’m always curious as to how popular actors and actresses from NZ made it to mainstream acting. I always see minimal Māori representation in the mainstream media and Taika is one of the few that I always saw. I would ask him how he made it, what drove him to pursue his dream, and many other things. He’s always been and still is an inspiration of mine when it comes to my acting. I still look up to him and look at him for motivation towards my dream. 

What are some of your hopes and dreams for the future? 

My main hope for the future is to become a well-known actress in Hollywood. I see so few female Māori actresses in large titled movies that I would love to be able to be one of the figures that inspire young girls and boys to strive for their dreams. I’ve always wanted to be an actress but with the support of my directors of Macbeth this year I’ve begun the early process of developing a name for myself. Receiving an Oscar someday sounds like a far stretch but I’m determined to work hard to strive for my hopes for the future. The ultimate goal if I make it to American acting is to return to Rangitoto College and tell the students how I got to where I will hopefully be in the future.

Who are you? 

Kia ora, I am Kata Simpkins otherwise known as Whaea Kata at Rangitoto College. I am a teacher of te reo Māori and help with Kaupapa Māori at school. My mother is of Ngā Puhi descent and my father is Welsh and English. I speak English and te reo Māori fluently, but was not raised speaking te reo, so I attended an immersion course when I was 18. Unfortunately at that time, I had to pay to learn my own language, but nowadays, te reo is accessible through free courses. I love being around Māori culture and watching the language and culture grow with strength every year.

When you’re not reading, what do you love doing? 

I love being involved in Kaupapa Māori and watching my kids play sports. 

What were you doing before this role?

I was teaching at Kaipara College, but have taught at several schools on the North Shore. I also taught at a Kohanga Reo (Māori immersion early childcare centre).

What was on the family bookshelf growing up? 

We didn’t have a library in my household growing up, but I remember a world atlas book that was used regularly as a reference when my dad would often talk about his travels while he was in the Royal English Navy. My brother became an avid traveller because he was inspired by my father’s adventures.

What are you currently reading? 

I am currently reading Niho Taniwha by Melanie Riwai-Couch. It’s an education book on helping ākonga Māori in mainstream schools.

Where do you seek inspiration? 

I always find inspiration from meeting people and hearing the changes, whether big or small they are making in the world.

What’s your favourite book? 

My favourite book is Where No Birds Sing. It’s supernatural short stories of people’s experiences in Aotearoa. I used to read a few of the stories to students, and it was a great way to engage them in discussions about some of our cultural experiences.

What are some mottos you live by? 

Always leave a place and people better than you found it.

Describe your perfect Saturday/Sunday. 

My perfect weekend is to be spending a hot day on a beach with my family and friends with some good kai and surf.

What advice do you have for teenagers today? 

There are two types of people in this world. People who stuff happens to, and people who make stuff happen.