Who are you?

Hi! My name is Mia Rajaratnam, I am 13 years old and a Year 9 student at Rangitoto College. I am half English and half Srilankan and moved to New Zealand when I was two years old. I have two dogs who are the best in the world. Kodi is a toy cavoodle and Fern is a cavoodle mixed with a little bit of labrador. I love to bake, go to the beach, see my friends, and spend time with my family. I have loved reading my whole life, from my dad reading and me just looking at the pictures to the novels I read today. Reading at night just before I go to sleep is my favourite because it gives me a chance to calm down before bed.

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

When I am not reading, I am dancing. I dance every day after school and sometimes before school too. I have been dancing since I was five and now dance competitively as a soloist and in groups. Over the past two years, I have come top in my age group in New Zealand at national solo competitions and came second and then third in the overall sections. I have loved being part of three of the Rangitoto College dance teams this year and would love to do them again next year. Fun fact! I actually started dancing when I was two years old but I absolutely hated it because I was too shy. But I restarted when I was five and have loved it ever since.

What’s a book you remember reading/having read to you when you were little? Tell us all about that memory.

I remember my parents reading the Giraffes Can’t Dance book so many times when I was little. It was my all time favourite. It was about a giraffe called Gerald who really badly wanted to dance but was a very tall giraffe so couldn’t because of his crooked knees and thin legs. But finally, after getting help from a cricket he was able to dance. A close second would be Burglar Bill which was another book we read before bed and I found it so funny. Burglar Bill was about a man who would eat his stolen dinner and then go and steal lots of people’s things. But then he accidentally steals a baby and his life turns upside down! We would read upstairs in our old house on the sofas just before bed.

What are some books you’ve encountered at school? 

In Year 8, I read the first Hunger Games book. I am normally not a fan of books which are about violence, survival, and adventure but I really enjoyed reading it. I just started reading the second book Catching Fire and I already can’t stop! This has influenced me to read more books which are a bit different to what I normally would and to just give things a try because I’m sure I will like it.

What are you currently reading?

I am currently reading the sixth book of the Keeper of the Lost Cities series by Shannon Messenger. I am really liking this book because it has such an interesting and complex plot so it always keeps me interested and wanting to read the next part. It is about a girl called Sophie who gets taken to the elven world to defeat the rebels the Neverseen and so her whole life changes.

What’s your favourite book?

Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian is my favourite book because I think it is the perfect mix of storyline and description and is my favourite topic to learn about: the Second World War and the Holocaust. It has the themes of love and family throughout the tough times which makes it such a lovely book to read. I have read it four times now and did a novel study on it last year. It is about a malnourished, punished young boy who is sent to a small town in England as a refugee from World War Two by his mentally ill mother. He goes to live with gruff Mister Tom and they both become the best versions of themselves they can because of each other.

What are some mottos you live by?

Work hard, be kind, and amazing things will happen.

Try to let go of the past and focus on the present.

Don’t worry darling.

Describe your ideal weekend.

My ideal weekend would include going out for brunch with friends or family and then spending the day at the beach or swimming. Going to dance in the evening and then coming back to a barbeque with chocolate ice cream for dessert. As you can probably tell, I think Kiwi summers are the best!

Who are you?

My name is Seth Davies. I am a trained English and Classics teacher who is fascinated by stories, storytelling, literature, and mythology. I am also interested in language and etymology and have tried my hand at learning French, Ancient Greek, Latin, te reo Māori, and Korean, though sadly I cannot claim to be fluent in any of these (yet!).

 What do you love about working at Rangitoto College?

I love that I get to learn from amazing teachers and students every day and share my passion for my subject with like-minded people. In life, it is rare to have the opportunity and privilege to be in a room full of inquisitive people putting their minds to complex tasks and ideas, so I cherish the time I get to spend with my classes discussing challenging, rich, and rewarding texts.  

What were you doing before this role?

Before joining Rangitoto College, I was employed by the University of Auckland, where I worked for the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences as an Undergraduate Student Academic Advisor and then as a PhD Advisor for the Faculty of Arts and Education for the School of Graduate Studies.

What was on the family bookshelf growing up?

Like me, my mother is an English teacher so my family bookshelves were overflowing with novels, non-fiction books, New Zealand literature, and cookbooks. I remember reading and enjoying the Tomorrow When the War Began series, as well as the Redwall series, both of which captured my imagination with their tales of adventure and adversity.

Tell us a brilliant book memory.

A favourite book memory is visiting Katherine Mansfield’s birthplace in Wellington and purchasing her complete works. Standing in the house where she grew up and flicking through the pages of her works was a surreal experience. I remember walking along Tinakori Road with her story A Birthday in mind and imagining what the street would have looked like in her childhood and how much had changed or stayed the same since then.

Do you remember reading/loving any books at school? Tell us about them.

I was a theatre kid in high school, so many of the books I read at school were actually plays. Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard and The Seagull were some of my favourites, along with Martin McDonagh’s plays. I also fell in love with Harold Pinter’s plays after seeing one performed by Auckland Theatre Company. My favourites include The Birthday Party and The Homecoming, which are as bizarre as they are brilliant!

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

Reading Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen made me appreciate her skill and humour as a writer. I had never really let myself believe I would enjoy her work, but since then I have read and enjoyed a number of her novels. They really are worth a go!

What’s your favourite book?

I am torn between my long-time favourite, Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, and a new favourite, James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room. However, you’re most likely to catch me reading contemporary New Zealand poetry, which is my current obsession.

Who would your ideal lunch companion(s) be, dead or alive?

I would love to have lunch with Ocean Vuong, Emily Perkins, and Tayi Tibble. Hearing three of my favourite authors talk to one another would be fascinating!

What advice do you have for teenagers today?

Look out for yourself and don’t put more pressure on yourself than you need to. Keep close to the people who make you feel good and try to make others around you feel good, too.


Who are you? (details, please!)

I am Eddie Cheng and I am an international student currently studying as a Year 9 student here at Rangitoto. I am a member of the school Sinfonia orchestra which won the bronze award for the annual KBB music festival (I played violin two). I am also involved in the school fencing and basketball U15 team, and I have made pretty good progress in both of these sports.

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

I have learnt piano for four years and violin for seven years. They both require a lot of effort and practice (about 1.5 hours each), so most of the time when I’m free I practise playing my instruments. Other than that, I like to play video games, such as Clash Royale and PUBG Mobile.

What are you currently reading?

I am halfway through Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K Rowling and I’ve almost finished The Discourse on the Method by Réne Descartes.

What’s a book you always recommend and why?

I always recommend The Discourse on the Method, by Réne Descartes, because it is heavily loaded with complex vocabulary and structured in a way that you have to read the book twice to understand what it is saying. It also teaches you about the different ways to do things with examples.

Why do you think people should read?

Books are filled with knowledge from their authors, so the more you read the more valuable knowledge you will attain. So reading is to gain value for yourself.

What are some mottos you live by?

“Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.” From American writer and journalist Sydney J. Harris, this quote basically advises us to seize every opportunity.

Who would you love to have lunch with (dead or alive)?

I love money so I would love to have lunch with Warren Buffet as he gives some amazing suggestions and ideas for investing and making money. A lunch with him is also very valuable as someone offered as much as 19 million dollars to eat lunch with him. So I think his advice would be worth the price of lunch!

Who are you?

Fay Meiklejohn – Associate Principal, Curriculum.

What’s your claim to fame?

I have umpired a netball test match between Australia and England in front of 10,000 fans in Melbourne—I really knew when I had made a dodgy call. It was super loud!

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

I have many aspects to my life that give me joy; I love coaching local, national, and international netball umpires and am in my happy place on the side of a netball court. I also enjoy going to the gym, doing pilates and paddleboarding. I enjoy doing cross-stitch and have many beautiful, framed pieces up on the walls in my home. I have two gorgeous mokopuna and I love chatting to them on facetime and writing a hand-written letter each week to Rhapsody-Fay—I call these her Nanni letters. The way she pretends to read them out loud melts my heart; she is only three.

What do you love about our Library/working at Rangitoto College?

I think the Library is the heart of the school. It is the place where our whole community belongs, where everyone can dream and let their imagination take flight. I also admire the Librarians who seem to know exactly the right book to recommend, they seem to have superpowers of knowing just the right novel, genre, or author.

What was on the family bookshelf growing up?

My dad was, and still is, an avid reader, so the bookshelf was always stacked to the brim with classics like To Kill a Mockingbird, Moby Dick, Huckleberry Finn, The Wind in the Willows and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (to name only a few). I also remember a lot of Chemistry textbooks, but I’ll be honest, I did not read many of them, although I suspect my dad had read them all.  When I was in Year 12, my mother started volunteering in the Kerikeri Public Library, and this made my dad incredibly happy as he had access to hundreds of bookshelves, filled with thousands of books. To this day he still goes to the public library and collects his weekly stash of reading material—I think this is where I get my passion for reading from. I do wonder if there will be a time when dad realises he has read every book in the Kerikeri Library; he can’t be far off that.

Tell us a brilliant book memory.

My late father-in-law, whilst living in Australia bought my children a beautiful book called The Bungarra Five by Josephine Barrymore. My children loved it; I cannot count the number of times I have read it, I know it almost off by heart! My youngest daughter is now a primary school teacher and during the Covid-19 lockdown I read it aloud to her Year 2 class as part of their literacy online learning module, they loved it too! The activity they did in response to the story was heart-warming. Recently I read it to my Rhapsody-Fay via Facetime and she also loved it. I think it is going to be one of those stories that become part of the fabric of the Meiklejohn family.

Do you remember reading/loving any books at school? Tell us about them.

I remember when I progressed to adult books, I read so much that I ended up getting eye strain and my parents had to take me to the optometrist to see if I needed glasses. I didn’t. I just had eye strain. My eye muscles eventually got stronger with time and practice. I do often wonder if that is why I became such a good netball umpire because I had such good vision due to strong ocular muscles.

What are you currently reading?

I am working my way through the Joe Pickett series written by CJ Box. I like Joe Pickett as he is a down to earth hero who, whilst minding his own business, always seems to fall into trouble.

What’s your favourite book?

I really enjoy reading Lee Child. I have a soft spot for Jack Reacher and therefore I don’t think I could pick a favourite; I love them all. Every November when the new Jack Reacher novel hits the shelves, I can be found walking around the house with the book in my hands. I have even cooked dinner, stirring pots whilst holding the book because I could not bear to put it down. When Lee Child says that his novels are real page-turners, he is not kidding! The only disadvantage with this is I finish the book within two days and then must wait 363 days until the next instalment.  

What are some mottos you live by?

My motto is “Be better today than you were yesterday.” I tell myself this every morning when I get out of bed. Whilst I am not sure I have achieved this every day of my 53 years; it gives me the inspiration for self-improvement and personal and professional development. I aspire to be a life-long learner and this motto guides this aspiration.

What advice do you have for teenagers today?

I would like to tell teenagers to engage in the real world in real-time. Rather than looking at the world through the lens of your phone, use your senses to experience the beauty that is all around you. Get up, show up, smell the roses. The world is a magnificent place if you are open to seeing, hearing, feeling, and experiencing its beauty.

Among his many achievements, Sebastian won an award at Senior Prizegiving this year (2023) for demonstrating Excellence in Leadership.


Who are you? (details, please!)

Hi, my name is Sebastian, and this year I’ve had the privilege of being a student leader at the school representing the Academic Leadership Team. During this year, our focus as a team has been to make learning a more engaging experience for every student. Because of this, we have organised several initiatives, such as the brand new Book Swap in E block, to make sure students have as many opportunities as possible to enjoy literature. As a part of my background, a couple of years ago, I moved here from Chile so I’ve had the opportunity to be immersed in different cultures, languages and literature.


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

I am an active person and really enjoy the outdoors and exploring new things. During my free time, I really enjoy running or cycling because it allows me to go and discover new places.


Tell us a brilliant book memory?

When I was younger and started reading a bit more, I remember I loved the Narnia books because of how similar yet different they were from my own life. I always love a book with characters with which I can relate but, at the same time, has a completely different reality that allows us to imagine and create our own reality. The reason why this is a brilliant book memory is because this series completely opened my mind in terms of what literature can be.


What are some books you’ve encountered (and enjoyed) at school? (Either here or a previous school)

One of my favourite books I have encountered at school was actually the first book I had to do an essay on during year 9, which was Animal Farm by George Orwell. What fascinated me the most about that book was how Orwell was able to use something so simple such as animals, to illustrate several aspects of our society and nature as humans.


What do you love about our library?

One of my favourite parts about the library is the variety of books there is. No matter what your interest is, I can guarantee you that you will always find something that will be interesting to read. Also, the librarians are always very helpful if you have any questions. 


What’s a book that’s changed your mind about something?

A book that changed my mind about something was Catcher in the Rye. The book’s whole premise follows the rather monotonous life of Holden Caulfield. Despite this, thanks to this book, I learned to appreciate the delicate art of crafting a novel and how language techniques immerse you in a text. There were some points where I really thought I was sitting next to the main character!


What are you currently reading?

The book I am currently reading is Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. As I prepare for my scholarship exam, I chose dystopian fiction as one of my areas of focus, given that it is a genre that I enjoy reading and I am passionate about.


What’s your favourite book?

My favourite book by far is George Orwell’s 1984. I’ve read this book a couple of times, and the thing that amazes me the most is the accuracy with which Orwell was able to take a look at society and imagine what it would be like in the future. Despite this book being part of the dystopian genre, it is quite surprising and perhaps a bit concerning at the same time how much our society today looks like the image Orwell envisioned in the 1940s. I often wonder, what would Orwell say if he was brought into our society today?


What advice are you grateful you’ve received?

One of the best pieces of advice I have received, and like to pass on, is that no one is born knowing everything. Sometimes it might seem a bit daunting to start something new, but from personal experience, I can tell you that there is nothing more valuable than giving things a go. It doesn’t matter if you get it wrong once, twice… or ten times… the most important thing is believing in yourself and giving it your best. Who knows, you may be surprised at what you are able to achieve!