Ben Witheford | Principal

Ben Witheford

Ben Witheford

I come to Shotover Primary School with a huge level of excitement. The opportunity to be part of a brand new school, even before a foundation is laid, an enrolment is taken and staff members are employed, is a once-in-a-career chance.

Our collective goal is to create a stunning learning community for all those connected with it - most importantly, for the children. It will be a place that they enjoy being at and being part of. It will also be a place that encourages and aspires to create success for all.

The task of education is one that still has huge purpose and influence in creating and moulding young lives so they are productive members of the world in which they find themselves. That might sound a bit airy fairy, but in a short sentence it does describe a nugget of truth.  

I enjoy immensely the challenge of leading and creating a school community that gives all children that opportunity. 

I come to Shotover from leading Otautau School, which is located in the heart of Western Southland and serving the township of Otautau and the surrounding farming district. Among the many things I learnt from spending eight years at Otautau was the importance community plays in not only a successful school but also growing great children.

When I'm not at work, I enjoy playing with technology, mountain biking and spending time with my family including the family chocolate lab, Bono.


Here is a short version of what I believe about education, learning and children.

Children deserve the best deal that can be possibly arranged for them. The decisions we make about the direction the school, the people employed, the classrooms modernised, the playgrounds built and the resources purchased should be focused on providing the children with the very best deal. It is my firm belief that all children can learn, although the speed of that progress will vary from child to child.

“let’s just make sure we give kids good experiences and that they learn how to read and write and think”
— John Dewey 1859-1952 | American Educator

The adult part of the teaching equation looks like this: employ the best people, provide them with the best resources, give them with all the support they need, expect great things from them and allow them to execute their role with excellence.

Keeping all this in mind, what do I believe constitutes a great education? While much has been written - some of it informed and some of it uninformed - to answer this very question, I like to keep my answer straightforward and to rely on the words of American educator John Dewey: “let’s just make sure we give kids good experiences and that they learn how to read and write and think”.

Claire Buist | Associate Principal

Claire Buist

Claire Buist

Claire Buist joins us from St Clair school in Dunedin where she was Associate Principal and Team Leader of the years 5 and 6 team. Claire brings a wealth of experience to Shotover Primary School. She is a teacher and leader who leads by example - setting the example in the classroom of what brilliant practice looks like.

Claire is passionate about the use of digital tools within classroom programmes that promote student learning. It’s about the right tool for the task and using it and its potential to transform the nature of teaching and learning. In 2013, Claire was one of only five New Zealand teachers inducted into the CORE Education eFellowship, which acknowledged her leadership in the use of electronic tools and which allowed her to undertake further study in this area.

Claire brings her extensive and successful experience to the senior leadership mix as we mould the culture and curriculum of Shotover Primary School.

Evelyn Aurik

Evelyn Aurik

Evelyn Aurik | Associate Principal

Hi my name is Evelyn Aurik, and I am thrilled to be joining the Shotover team.

I desire the absolute best for the people around me. I am excited about education and enjoy researching ideas and finding out ways to improve what we do.


I have come from Myross Bush School where I was Deputy Principal and team leader of the Junior Syndicate. In my role I team-taught four days per week in the New Entrant class and was released for one day a week for leadership.

I am married to Robert and we have three adult children who we are very proud of. Family is important to me and I treasure every moment with them. I enjoy biking, caravanning and gardening. I am ready for an adventure and am looking forward to living and working in Queenstown and becoming a part of the community.

To be effective I believe that it is important to build positive and trusting relationships and I am excited about meeting you all.