Who are you?
Andy Ballard, HOD Mathematics and Statistics.


What’s your claim to fame?
I won a national teaching award for Sustained Excellence in Tertiary Teaching and was flown to Wellington to meet the Prime Minister and receive my award at Parliament House.


When you’re not reading, what do you love doing?
Running. I usually run about 40km per week over five or six runs and have run the Tarawera Ultramarathon (53 km) twice.


What do you love about working at Rangitoto College?
He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata. The students, the teachers, and the non-teaching staff are so amazing at our college it makes me happy every day I go to work.


What were you doing before this role?
I was a lecturer in management at AUT University. I worked there for fourteen years after leaving my job as a marketing manager and moving to New Zealand.


What was on the family bookshelf growing up?
So many books, but lots of classics. I was fortunate to have two keen readers as parents and a room full of books to choose from. I have particularly fond memories of reading Pride and Prejudice, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.


Tell us a brilliant book memory?
When I was in primary school I remember reading a book called The Kingdom of Carbonel about the titular cat. The actual storyline I have long forgotten but I can still strongly recall the overwhelming sadness I felt when the main human character lost her magical ability to talk to cats; it seemed like a piece of her had been ripped out, and I cried and cried every time I read it. Perhaps that’s the magic of books; the emotions remain long after the detail has been lost, so really significant books help you to feel those emotions.


Do you remember reading/loving any books at school?
At high school I loved The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and also The Lord of the Rings. I think those were the two gateway books that led me to a love of science fiction and fantasy and hooked me into playing Dungeons and Dragons. As a teenager I devoured books by Raymond E Feist, Anne McCaffrey, David Eddings, and most of all Terry Pratchett. Even today I can happily re-read a novel by Terry Pratchett and find layers of meaning I missed previously, laugh at jokes that had passed me by, and marvel at the inventiveness of a man whose savage political commentary was so cleverly placed in an absurdist world.


What’s a book that’s changed your life/mind?
Two books which really changed my mind are Emergency Sex (And Other Desperate Measures): True Stories from a War Zone by Heidi Postlewait, Kenneth Cain, and Andrew Thomson together with Shake Hands with the Devil by Roméo Dallaire. These two non-fiction books shocked me deeply and made me reevaluate my probably naive view of the United Nations as a successful and capable global peacekeeping force.


What are you currently reading?
I’ve just finished Josie Shapiro’s debut novel, Everything is Beautiful and Everything Hurts. It uses the narrative structure of a marathon run to explore loneliness, sexism, misogyny, friendship, sacrifice, and ultimately happiness.


What do you always recommend?
I always recommend Touching the Void by Joe Simpson. Joe paints a compelling picture of the struggle for life on the mountains and I can imagine every serac, every crevasse, every hope, and every tear as he struggles to survive. His many other books continue to inspire me too, with their examination of the reasons people pursue extreme sports and the ethical complexities of modern mountaineering. For those less interested in autobiography I recommend anything by William Boyd, but particularly Brazzaville Beach, An Ice Cream War, or The Blue Afternoon. All three are beautifully written and evoke such a strong sense of place you will be transported to West Africa or to the Philippines when you read them.


What do you/will you love reading to your kids?
I loved reading Dear Bear by Joanna Harrison. It was the perfect book about an overactive childhood imagination against a backdrop of exhausted parents.


What’s your favourite book?
I really don’t have a favourite but I love books which surprise me and a book which did that brilliantly was Gillian Flyn’s Gone Girl. It took a while for me to recognise the unreliable narration and start to question what I’d already read. Unusually it was made into a decent movie too, although losing some of the subtlety and complexity of the novel.


Who would your ideal lunch companion(s) be, dead or alive?
Well I really don’t want a dead lunch companion so I feel I must choose someone alive. I would love to have lunch with Bill Bryson because I think he’d be tremendously entertaining through his insightful observation of the trivial details of our surroundings.


What advice do you have for teenagers today?
Be passionate about something. It can be anything; a sport, a social issue, a goal, even a person! Passion makes you interesting. Don’t expect your passions to remain the same forever but embrace each one wholeheartedly in the moment. And keep an open mind. When the Harry Potter books were released my wife and I used to read them aloud to each other, alternating chapters! Being read to is such a treat, even as an adult.

Who are you?

My name is Cruz Cassidy and I am a Year 13 Sports Leader at Rangitoto College for 2024. I am also currently in the Rangitoto College First XI Football team and spend a lot of my time playing sports. I was born in Auckland and am of Pakeha and Māori descent (Ngāpuhi). I previously attended Pinehill School and Northcross Intermediate.


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

As mentioned previously, I am in the First XI Football team meaning that I am always doing something related to football. I currently coach the Year 9A football team at the college and have also previously refereed the junior girls football on a Wednesday afternoon. My favourite club is Arsenal so I enjoy watching their games as well as most games I can go to see in person at Eden Park with my mates.


What’s a book you remember reading/having read to you when you were little? Describe why that book is memorable to you.

A book that I remember when I was younger, not so much as me reading but rather being read to me, was The Very Hungry Caterpillar. It is the first story that I think of when being asked about my childhood. I remember that the caterpillar would eat food that is not good for it and then feel bad afterwards. This made me feel like it was a good representation of the real world as we should do actions that we feel comfortable with and don’t make us feel bad afterwards.


What do you love about our library?

The thing I love the most about the Rangitoto College library is the librarians. I know from personal experience as I was never a big English fan and didn’t read much until I came to this college. The librarians were really helpful as I struggled to pick a book to read at school and they asked me what sort of stuff I like and helped me find one that I genuinely found to be interesting.


What are you currently reading?

The book that I am currently reading is Think Faster Talk Smarter by Matt Abrahams. This book is all about how to respond to conversations when put on the spot and under pressure. Most people tend to freeze up when put on the spot and not know how to react. This book gives strategies to deal with this situation.


What’s your favourite book, and why?

My favourite book I have ever read is Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable by Tim Grover. This book is written by NBA legend Dwayne Wade’s old trainer and he talks about mentality and mindset in life. I really enjoyed reading this as the way he talks about mentality really got me to think about my own life. Not only did I learn a lot from the book, I also put that knowledge into use and am better off for it.


Why do you think people should read?

I think people should read as it is a great way to learn new things that can improve your life. Yes, I do understand that reading can be long and boring, yet there are so many benefits. I found that books that I am not interested in tend to be boring for me as well. However, once you get something you’re interested in it becomes really enjoyable and you can gain so much knowledge that you didn’t have before.


What are some mottos you live by?

My favourite motto that I have ever heard was a pretty popular one as it says ‘Success is like an iceberg’. What this means is that people can only see the end of your success, like the tip of the iceberg. What others don’t see is the hard work and hours you put in which is a lot bigger than the success. 


Name a figure, either from your own life, a historical figure, or a celebrity (alive or otherwise) who you would love to have lunch with. 

One person that I would love to sit down and have lunch with would be Cristiano Ronaldo. Not only is he the G.O.A.T, but he has one of the best mentalities out of any athlete of all time. He has come through so many challenges in his life and has won so many accolades. Yet, he is still hungry for success and still has that drive to be the best. I would love to learn this by having lunch with him.