Interview conducted and written by John Shafer, Director of YOLO
Working at Cockle Bay School in Howick for over 20 years, Ginny Gartland has grown up with a small group that has become a large community.
As manager of the Howick Electoral Centre in an election, students that were 5 years old when they started at the school now come up to her as a 25-year-old with a child in tow saying “Hi Mrs Gartland!” When she responds “Hi Jack”, they say in surprise, “You know my name!”
Ginny has seen over 3,400 students in 20 years at Cockle Bay come through the doors, quite literally, as her desk is at the school reception. That is a big community and she has played a major part in celebrating it.
The First Yearbook
In 2002, when our company first started, Ginny took delivery of a letter we wrote to principals promoting yearbooks as a way of preserving school history.
Ginny thought a yearbook would be a great idea for Cockle Bay despite scepticism from the then-principal Spencer Baty. “Schools create so much information that no one ever gets to see” and “We have so many photos and so many activities”, she exclaims.
Spencer apparently said at the time, “yearbooks are a secondary school thing”. That did not stop Ginny chipping away and convincing Spencer to give it a go. The first book was delivered in December 2002.
“I was so excited when I saw our first yearbook and back then it was all black and white!” Now after 18 years it is a full-colour 80-page annual production. She is not satisfied yet though, “My dream is to have two pages for each class”. The school collects hundreds of images and “We need to share these!” she declares with great enthusiasm.
Growing up in Papatoetoe as one of 7 children, Ginny says she was very shy and the quietest person in a group. However, she also says, “I like to be around people”.
Her first job was working in a bank in charge of customer service. Then she saw an ad for a job at Middlemore Hospital School as school secretary. The advert said, “must be able to use a computer”. Not having the skills at the time, she asked “Do you really have to use a computer?” and they replied, “if you are the right person, we will train you”. She must have been the right person as she got the job and stayed there for 4 years, starting a career change into the school sector.
Mt Richmond Special School was her next position as the Principal’s PA where she “loved it”. It was a “very special time… the most rewarding… and they were such wonderful people”. After 2 years she moved on to Cockle Bay School in 2000.
The Yearbook Process
There seems to be no doubt that the yearbook is a project of her passion for the Cockle Bay School community. Showing her zeal, she got the idea off the ground without knowing if it would fly or not. Nearly two decades later, she is still looking for improvements and more pages in order to share more content.
She says at the primary level, “More events happen that most children are involved in compared to College”. Therefore photos have a wide cross-section of the students. This means more opportunity for as many children as possible to have their picture in the yearbook multiple times. “Mrs Gartland did you know my photo is in the yearbook 18 times?” one child proudly said.
The process starts at the beginning of the year setting up a shared Google Drive with a directory that matches the sections of the book.
Ginny is very organised, likes accuracy, and to be in control of the yearbook process. She provides a document to all contributors, giving instructions on what is expected of them for their section or pages.
Ginny comments, “while all my hard work and strictness with the teachers ensuring that data supplied is on time and accurate, this is only one of the many things that creates an amazing yearbook. Without the support and guidance from the dedicated Spacific staff, this result would not be possible. They are always so helpful, able to suggest alternatives when asked and they never make you feel like you are a bother to them or that they have already told you something”.
Up until Term 3, she spends a couple of hours per week on the yearbook, which ramps up during Term 3 and 4. “You have to put in the time. I am always looking for ways to streamline the process for the teachers, as the end of the year is very busy”, she says.
Proofing happens at home for at least a week of nights till midnight sometimes. “I read the book cover to cover probably 5 times, but that is because I am fanatical, I want it to be perfect”.
One year though, there was on oversight and it was personal. After spending countless hours proofing the 2004 edition making sure everything was ‘tickety-boo’, the printed copy landed at the school and credit for the Editor was for ‘Ginnny’ Gartland. “How could I have missed that?” she said.
“My reward is that (pointing to the yearbook) and the feedback from everyone and the smile on the child’s face who won the cover artwork at the school prizegiving at the end of the year. There are so many rewarding things that come out of it. Often parents come back and tell a similar story of how their yearbook sits on the table and because it is shared so many times, they come back to buy another one because the first one is thrashed”.
The reward and benefit for the community is obvious. Ginny had the foresight and put in the effort, along with all of her contributors, over the years to create an annual yearbook for Cockle Bay School. It is a book that everyone anticipates and appreciates. For the students it links their childhoods to the school for life. That’s worth a truckload of thanks.