Ngahuia Kopa is taking what she learned at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa and putting it into practice, and the beneficiaries will be the tamariki who come under her care.
Ngahuia graduated from the He Korowai Akonga – Bachelor of Education (Primary) degree programme two years ago and is teaching at Te Wharekura o Nga Purapura o Te Aroha in Te Awamutu. The way the degree is taught and the supportive environment at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa had provided a blueprint for her own practice as a teacher.
“Our responsibility is not only to create a supportive environment but to build and shape our tamariki and build stronger communities, and that’s what our kaiako did for us,” she says. She felt welcome and comfortable at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa before she had even enrolled. “On my first initial interview I was sold straight away. I already felt instantly that I was home and I knew I was going to have an amazing journey. You feel the whānau environment as if you were their own,” she says. And it’s an environment that’s welcoming to all.
“Ahakoa ko wai koe, ahakoa nō whea, ka manaakitia koe e Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.”
She says the degree offers valuable insight into Te Ao Māori, which is useful for all teachers. “Even though you’re under a mainstream framework, the kaiako are able to balance it with a Māori world view. So even if you are predominantly mainstream, you still have a good foundation in Te Ao Māori. The degree is quite flexible.”
But it was the unquestioning support of her kaiako which left the biggest impression on Ngahuia. “Our kaiako understood and could see when we were having difficulties and were able to pull us aside and make sure we were okay, even with things outside the degree because life goes on and you have your tests. They can just pull you back in and remind you why you’re doing what you’re doing and how far you’ve come, it’s just awesome.”
However, all students face challenges along the way and Ngahuia encourages them to maintain their commitment. “For anyone interested in pursuing a career in teaching and wanting to do the degree with Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, be true and stay real to the reason why it is that you want to teach. Don’t get put off by all the paperwork and assessments. Make sure you have an amazing support team at home, because as a student things get tight and we need as much support as we possibly can.”
Te Wānanga o Aotearoa provided much of that support, she says. “Te Wānanga o Aotearoa is an amazing place that feels like home. It’s like another whānau.”