by JOHN FONG
John Coulam’s 17 years of dedicated and outstanding service as principal of Marian School in Hamilton was acknowledged and celebrated by the school on December 8 at a morning gathering in the Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The occasion saw Mr Coulam presented with a Gold Card acknowledging, among other things, his leadership and his influence on the lives of thousands of students over the years.
A farewell Mass was celebrated later that day and the students’ answers to Bishop Stephen
Lowe’s questions about their principal showed how much the students loved and respected Mr Coulam.
It was as a student at Auckland’s Rosmini College that the young John Coulam became
attracted to a teaching career.
“It was at Rosmini that my love of the Church grew and I admired the work of the Rosminian order. I saw teachers enjoying their work and making a difference for students and this led me to Loreto Hall Catholic Teachers’ College”, he said.
His work in Catholic education began in 1979 with an appointment to his old primary school of St Mary’s in Northcote.
He loved his two years there and moved to St Peter’s Catholic School in Cambridge in
1981. After a year, he was appointed director of religious studies and became fully
involved in parish ministry.
In September 1986, he became principal of St Joseph’s School in Matamata and was
there when Tomorrow’s Schools was introduced in 1989.
In May 1993, he moved to Palmerston North as principal of St James’ School in Hokowhitu. It was in October, 1999 that he moved to Marian School in Hamilton as principal.
When he first became a principal, he was told by an experienced colleague that when
everyone else has given up on a child that he should leave no stone unturned to help
The advice was that as principal he had to be the child’s advocate or society in turn
will pay the price.
“That advice has guided my decisionmaking.
“A child needs to know at all times that they are loved and it is the behaviour or attitude that is disliked,” Mr Coulam said .
His hope is that as children go through a Catholic school, they encounter Christ as
a friend and know that they are never alone.
The challenge for children and us all is to be the hands, the face, and the voice of Christ to those we meet, he said.
Mr Coulam served as president of the Waikato Principals’ Association for the last five years and in an executive position in the NZ Catholic Primary Principals’ Association for 20 years with two years as its national president.
In 2009 his contribution was acknowledged with the Laureate Award from the New Zealand Catholic Education Office.
Mr Coulam is the new schools’ education manager at Hamilton diocese.