Knowing how to build trust and gain the respect of others helped him ease into teaching after deciding on a career change several years ago.

Boon has spent much of his adult life as a youth worker, not only in New Zealand, but abroad in Thailand and the United Kingdom.

During his time in the UK, Boon would visit secondary schools to run workshops, and facilitate discussions between students about relationships.

“It was then I noticed a lot (not all) of teachers couldn’t really speak to young people,” Boon says.

“A lot of them struggled to talk with teenagers, instead of talking at teenagers – no teenager likes being talked at.”

This communication breakdown spurred Boon on to do something about it.

Boon returned to NZ to complete his Diploma of Teaching (primary) in Palmerston North, where he remained for two years following, teaching at Roslyn School.

Teaching six-year-olds was an excellent training ground for learning how to manage large groups of people, Boon adds.

“If you can teach twenty-five six-year-olds, you can teach anyone – it was a lot of hard work, but very rewarding.”

When Boon’s mother passed away, Boon decided to move back to his hometown Wellington to be closer to his dad, who is in his 70s.

Also at this time, Boon began teaching religious education to secondary school students at St Bernard’s College Lower Hutt, a school of approximately 650 Year 7-13 boys.

Nearly two years have passed since Boon, now the assistant director of religious studies, started there and he says it has been an absolutely wonderful journey.

Boon has been able to draw on his primary teaching experience to enhance his teaching at secondary school – it has helped him learn how to teach in a variety of groupings, and not just stand in the front of the classroom, creating more engagement.

His youth ministry background and ability to facilitate well has also proved extremely helpful in the classroom.

“I do debates with my Year 10 and 12s about social issues where I tell the boys that they know more collectively than I do, so it’s my job to ask the right questions.

“It allows students to share knowledge and learn from their peers … some will be experts on some topics.”

This approach gives students accountability for their own learning, as they have to engage with the material, think about it, and explain it to each other, Boon says.

The most important thing Boon brings to the classroom however, is his ability to relate to students, and build essential relationships. 

“I go to the boys’ rugby games and umpire the odd cricket game – they see me in other settings aside from the classroom and because I am male, and youngish, we have similar likes and dislikes.”

People often ask Boon how he can teach a classroom full of teenage boys, and his answer sums it up nicely.

“It is easy if you actually like being alongside them, show interest in them, and speak to them in a mature way.”

Boon has no regrets switching careers and says he is in teaching for the long haul.

“I love what I do.”