Tags:National Volunteers Week

3 min read

Feeling the love in our schools, with Fonterra's Jo Martell

This National Volunteer Week (June 20-26), we’re celebrating the amazing experiences of the individuals who give their time and expertise to support school leaders through Springboard Trust. Read more of our coverage here!

For Jo Martell, General Manager of People and Culture at Fonterra, the volunteer experience with Springboard Trust has made a fundamental shift in her life.  

“I asked a question at a forum recently, completely inspired by my volunteering experience – is there room for love in the corporate sector? Because there is love everywhere in our schools, a power of humanity that is desperately needed.”  

That power of love, and the self-described “humbling” time she has spent with school leaders in the last 18 months, has reinvigorated Jo’s outlook.  

A gift that goes both ways  

Jo was familiar with Springboard Trust’s work through her colleagues who had already volunteered, and leapt at the opportunity to coach a school leader.  

“I moved to the Hawkes Bay last year, and Bex [Springboard’s Volunteer Manager] needed someone to step in to help coach a school leader in the region. I’ve really wanted to do this, and it just ended up being perfect timing!”  

With that, Jo’s journey began. Starting a new volunteer role in a pandemic-afflicted environment might seem like an added stressor, but, as Jo explains, COVID-19 only added to her drive to contribute to school leaders’ learning.  

“COVID has been difficult, yes, but it’s created so much reflection on what’s important. Not just for me but for our children, our country’s future. For me, that meant really committing to finding ways to give back.” 

And the coaching hasn’t just resulted in giving back – it's created that cherished two-way learning that so often happens at Springboard Trust.  

“It’s such a great equilibrium of gifting and giving – I feel so privileged to be a part of these principals’ lives and to be able to offer a contribution to their learning in return.” 

Humbling experiences  

As a volunteer, Jo has coached school leaders, providing an invaluable sounding board for them to reflect on themselves, their teams and their leadership style – which has proven to be an eye-opening experience. 

“I think in the corporate world, we tend to have stronger frameworks around careers and leadership – identifying someone’s aspirations, helping them find pathways to those aspirations, and giving them the confidence to move forward. The principals I’ve worked with were teachers prior to their leadership role, and just haven’t had access to anything like that.”  

“That’s been a really humbling experience, realising how much we have access to in the corporate sector that we take for granted. How to have conversations to build trust, key trust equations, even a lot of Simon Sinek stuff – being able to introduce those to school leaders has been amazing.” 

“Because it’s lonely, you know? In the principal role. I’m often there as someone the principal can just download to, and help them get back into a positive space. I like to see them dancing out of our meetings!”  

Spreading the love

Jo’s time with school leaders has also given rise to immense gratitude for the work they do.  

“The work they do for the next generation is vitally important, and they do so much of it – they're social workers, charity workers, teachers, leaders, and above all they love their kids so much.” 

“Being invited into that world, welcomed like family and seeing the love in our schools first-hand – it's something you just have to do if you get the opportunity.”  

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