Joce Jesson.


By Sharn Riggs (Te Pou Ahurei o Mua | Former National Secretary, Te Hautū Kahurangi)

Well, yes, Joce is a star who shone brightly in teacher education and in unions and in being a worker, being a feminist, and being an all-round wonderful, wonderful woman with a great sense of humour and with the razor-sharp brain that she brought to everything she considered, everything she embarked on.

Her commitment and love of teacher education, her feminism and her unionism informed everything she did, every decision she made. These were her guiding stars.

I had the great good fortune to know and work with Joce over a number of years. I first came to know her when the Teachers’ Colleges‘ Association merged with The Association of Polytechnic Tutors to form The Association of Staff in Tertiary Education (ASTE) – a union of polytechnic lecturers and teachers’ college lecturers. This was a time when at union executive meetings when the women’s report was scheduled, the men would see this as an ideal opportunity to leave the room to have a smoke. Similar behaviour occurred when anything to do with Tangata Whenua was being discussed. You can imagine how Joce dealt with that. But the trades blokes (mostly) took it on the chin. And out of those debates, discussions, and arguments, she was instrumental in honing the values that shaped the kind of union that ASTE became, and which have become such an integral part of the TEU.

Joce was the branch chair at Auckland College of Education before the truly disastrous decisions were made which allowed the universities to swallow the colleges in their rampant pursuit of evermore EFTS, not to mention the capital assets many of the colleges had. Prior to that happening, the union at Auckland College of Education and others truly demonstrated, in the early days at least, that worker democracy could be a real thing. Nothing happened at that College unless Joce and the branch committee were consulted, issues were discussed with the views of the branch being considered and taken into consideration as the valued voices of the profession. How things have changed and how Joce railed against the degradation and devaluing of teacher education that she witnessed and that she fought so hard to retain.

So much to be proud of, so much to mourn. A woman of profound wisdom and intellect, of values and principles, as well as the wonderful gift of friendship and laughter. So much to be missed, so much to be treasured.