Sharing Allco’s Values with the Community
Allco Waterproofing is working in partnership with Rotorua Lakes High School to create better outcomes for students with learning difficulties, inspired by Allco Managing Director, Alex Valentine, and his own experience with Dyslexia. In close collaboration with Rotorua Lakes Principal, Jon Ward, this partnership is funding a designated Teacher Aide for Year 9 and 10 students throughout the 2023 school year, as well as additional professional development training for Rotorua Lakes staff and 3 contextualised learning day trips for 55 students.
“As a Dyslexic person myself, I can still vividly remember being 8 or 9 years old and having my assignment shown around class as an example of what not to do. Suffice to say, that experience made a lasting impression. Thankfully, my Mum was a teacher who had the knowledge required to support my additional learning needs back in an era when they weren’t really being recognised yet.” says Allco Managing Director, Alex Valentine.
When Alex’s stepdaughter started struggling with some of the same learning challenges he’d experienced, Alex and his wife, Celia, stepped in to help. “From the time that she was in primary school, we always worked closely with her teachers to provide additional resources wherever we could, and when we moved to Rotorua we were lucky to feel really supported by the staff here. I got to know [Rotorua Lakes High School Special Education Needs Coordinator (SENCO)] Helen Gainsford and reached out to her at the end of 2021 to offer some financial assistance for students who were experiencing learning difficulties.”
Rotorua Lakes High School Principal, Jon Ward, says that Alex and Celia’s non-prescriptive approach to providing sponsorship has been the key to cementing this successful partnership.’ Their approach has always been ‘what can we do’ rather than ‘this is what we’re going to do’. They’ve asked us what we need, and they’ve really listened when we’ve told them.”
“Teaching really is about relationships,” Jon says, “and supporting students’ individual needs. We often find that labels like ‘Dyslexia’ can lead to disengagement when not accompanied by appropriate support. Alex and Celia gave us the freedom to explore how best to provide that support to our students by allowing us to balance individual learning needs with the needs of the rest of the kids in class. With their contribution, last year we were able to employ a Y9 Teacher Aide, Rena, who is very personable and gets alongside the kids to make them feel safe and supported.”
In particular, Jon says that the support from Alex and Celia has directly improved outcomes for students with Dyslexic learning preferences as well as kids with Anxiety and ADHD. “Alex and Celia’s sponsorship of the Y9 Pohutukawa programme enabled these students to engage, feel a sense of belonging and experience success at school. We cannot overstate how much this has been appreciated.”
“Celia and I love to see the positive outcomes of any donation we make,” Alex says. “When Jon came to us with 23 beautifully written emails from the students in Rena’s Pohutukawa class, we could see exactly how this programme was impacting them.”
As the 2023 school year approached, both Alex and Jon considered what would happen as these students aged out of the extra support that had been provided for them in Y9. With Alex acting as a champion for the ongoing partnership, Allco stepped in as a business to build upon the foundations that they had started. “When Jon and I sat down to talk about this back in December of 2022, I had a bit of a reality check and I went away to speak with my sister who manages my mother’s Trust [a shareholder of Allco]. Together, we decided that we would feel comfortable with Allco sponsoring a second teacher aide for Y10 students; we knew that this is something that Mum would approve of.”
At around the same time, Alex finally shared the details of the sponsorship with the Allco team. “Celia and I have been providing this kind of educational support for years already without really discussing it with anyone, but Jon strongly encouraged us to tell the team. He made me understand that the work we’ve done with this programme has meant that kids keep turning up to school. There are now more than 50 children across two classes who can achieve better futures because of the work we’re doing together. When I shared this with the Allco team and expressed to them that their hard work to make us a successful business is exactly what has made this all possible, their response was deeply humbling.”
Indeed, Jon says that this programme simply would not have happened without the support from Alex and now Allco. “We all acknowledge the importance of Teacher Aides in schools, but the fact is that we can’t provide them with the job security they need. The contribution from Alex and now Allco, has given the teacher aid added stability, creating greater loyalty to the school and the children.”
Alex puts their success down to a sense of shared values. ‘Allco Vision is to be New Zealand’s trusted waterproofing specialist for Kiwi communities, and we have a business that’s very much built on trust and a desire to always be and do our best. We do this by creating an environment where our people thrive and then extending this out to our communities.’
There’s a “massive synergy” between the two organisations, Jon says. “Rotorua Lakes’ vision is to grow with people and that’s exactly what Allco, and Alex, do incredibly well. The fact that our partnership with Rotorua Lakes evolved organically, rather than us simply selecting a cause to support, is a great example of the culture we promote internally: filling a genuine need, while creating a safe and positive environment for our own people.” says Alex.
While publicly celebrating the partnership is perhaps not Alex’s natural instinct, he recognises that sharing the good that Allco is doing could encourage others to do the same. “I’m really grateful to Jon for pushing us to tell this story and I’m excited to see how the partnership evolves.” “Of course, we’re hoping that this is just the beginning,” Jon adds, “but we also know that every cohort that comes through has different needs. If we fixed the offer, we could end up out of touch with what’s best for our students, so we plan to sit down together again at the end of this year and talk about what’s next. The ability to adapt and Alex and Celia’s willingness to listen has been profound.”
‘You could say that at Allco we don’t rest on our laurels very often’, Alex reflects. ‘The world is changing and we are 100% committed to finding meaningful ways to support our team and our community. We’re always evolving. And with this partnership, we’re seeing impact on a scale that I couldn’t have imagined, which I know would make Mum really proud.’