Tony Nelson - outstanding branch activist
Every PPTA Te Wehengarua branch needs a Tony Nelson.
Tony, a Mathematics and Commerce teacher, and branch chair and secretary at Waiuku College, was recently presented with the Guy Allan award for outstanding branch activism.
Union and gym similarities
Speaking at the presentation ceremony, PPTA Te Wehengarua president Melanie Webber said that Tony, being a body builder, would appreciate the similarities between union and gym membership. “You can pay your dues, but if you don’t show up and get actively involved, you won’t get any stronger.”
She commended him for his passion about health and wellbeing, and diversity in the secondary teaching profession.
“Rangatahi need to see themselves in their teachers, so the more diverse our workforce, so much the better for our ākonga.”
Navigating through problems
Colleague and nominator, Matthew Johnson, says Tony has been both branch chair and secretary for the last four years. “When new staff start, Tony conducts a membership drive, talking to them about the benefits of joining PPTA, encouraging them in particular to sign up for the health care benefits.
“He checks in on new employees, making sure they are finding their way around the school. He’s open and honest and digs deeper into the needs of staff members. When members have issues, he seems to understand intuitively how a situation might be resolved to avoid further conflict.
“He is able to navigate through problems, providing support, seeking advice and pulling levers to achieve an acceptable outcome and he will reach out beyond the school for advice and a unique perspective when necessary.”
Perseverance and resilience
Matthew says Tony develops strong relationships with the Heads of Faculty and senior management to ensure he understands the mindset of those in leadership positions.
Tony says he was “stoked” to be presented with the award. “I was completely speechless when I was told I was getting the award, it’s really nice to have my contribution recognised.”
One of the most satisfying aspects of his activism is the perseverance and resilience skills it has given him. “You ask yourself at times, ‘why am I putting in all these hours and doing all this extra work?’ But the alternative is to do nothing, and that’s just not who I am. I feel like I am working to strengthen a community and a profession.”
Tony’s advice to any member who is considering taking on a branch activist role is to find themselves a mentor or a mate who can guide you through the challenges that you will face. “And listen to the voices to the people who you hear from often, and to others who you don’t interact with often. Being active in the branch gives you a great insight into the human mind – and that’s one of the most rewarding aspects.”
PPTA established the Guy Allan award in 2005 to recognise outstanding branch activism in the Counties-Manukau and Auckland regions. The award commemorates the late Guy Allan — a former PPTA branch chair and an Auckland-based field officer who was renowned for his commitment to unionism and branch activism.