Nicola Potts

30 September 2020

Nicola Potts is the teacher in charge of Food, Nutrition and Hospitality at St Patrick’s College, Silverstream and HETTANZ Home Economics Kaiārahi.

I went to Otago University and did Home Science, then I became a supervisor at a University hostel and an assistant lecturer. When I got married and moved to Wellington, Tawa College was looking for a reliever teacher, and I found I really enjoyed it. After teacher training, I taught at Aotea, Whitireia Polytechnic, Newlands, Correspondence School, Porirua College and now I’ve been at St Pat’s Silverstream for 12 years.

While at St Pat’s I’ve been able to continue with my studies; I have done a post-graduate diploma in Public Health and Community Nutrition. I like to keep up to date and relevant. I’m currently the Home Economics kaiārahi for HETTANZ. This means I’m the subject expert, to look after Home Economics teachers. I reply to emails asking for advice, I do visits, I write and grade school exams so there’s standardisation throughout the country. We have a Facebook page, which I indexed that so teachers have a resource to find valuable information that’s right up to date. 

Having interaction with the students and passing knowledge on is what inspires me. It’s so interesting watching them get their ‘aha’ moment. 

I’m a kinaesthetic learner; and use cooking to demonstrate what I’m teaching. For example, for a unit on sports nutrition, we discuss the value of eating vegetables and carbohydrates. I might make a carrot or a courgette muffin and show them why I’m making that. I don’t recycle my work, I always think of something new, it’s always changing. 

My advice for nutrition teachers is to be really passionate about what you do. It’s one step forward, two back. I make time to have good discussions in class. I say, ‘this is in the news today, what do you think?’ We’ve been called a ‘cabbage’ subject but I embrace that. If the cabbage is my unit, the cabbage leaves are all intertwined, and I teach the boys to pull back the layers to get to the core of the learning. I teach them critical thinking skills. 

Covid-19 has helped students realise that what we teach is so relevant to today’s world. Some people who are getting Covid are obese or malnourished – why is that? We look at sustainable nutrition during lockdown and continuing. I change my teaching to what’s relevant to today – especially societal influences and sustainability. My boys get good results because they know they’re writing about themselves and their worlds. 

I’m a school nutritionist and I want to teach the boys what they should be eating to be good sportsmen and academics. The school has a nutrition policy, and that needs to be reinforced within school and with the boarders at the hostel. My ‘F-word’ is ‘feed’; I hate the word feed, it’s just in and out. How do we stop that? We need to see food as something that nourishes us, helps us with academic and sporting ability, not just fuel. Until boys understand what food does for them, they won’t appreciate good food.

I’m excited about the Ministry review of the Home Economics Achievement Standards. They want to call our subject ‘food science’; I’m keen to call it ‘applied food science’. If we called ourselves applied food science, that would be a good future step; it would acknowledge that what we do includes science, sociology, health and hauora.