Award winners reach for the stars

Issue: Volume 95, Number 2

Posted: 9 February 2016
Reference #: 1H9cyw

Winning a Prime Minister’s Education Excellence Award in 2014 gave full Māori immersion centre Nōku Te Ao a huge confidence boost – and they certainly haven’t been resting on their laurels since.

In 2002, Dy Stirling was part of a kapa haka group of parents who came together to form one of the South Island’s few full Māori immersion early childhood centres. They called it Nōku Te Ao, which means ‘the world is mine’.

Confident children, a different way of learning, and encouraging students to own their world were the philosophies that drove their vision. After several years of ‘finding their feet’, the Christchurch-based centre began to thrive.

In 2014, Nōku Te Ao won the Excellence in Governing category, the Awatea Award, in the Prime Minister’s Education Excellence Awards.

It has been an exciting journey for Nōku Te Ao and a big part of their success has been the confidence boost received from winning the award.

“Winning the award confirmed to us that we were on the right track,” says Dy. “Before we entered the awards, the parents were happy and the ERO (Education Review Office) report was okay, but we never quite had the confidence that what we were doing was right.”

Initially the win was a shock for Dy and the centre’s kaiako, the teachers, but that soon changed. “We realised after winning the award that we have to live up to our reputation,” she says. Being recognised with an education award gave the centre the assurance and courage needed to grow and develop.

Since the award win a second centre and a kura have both been launched with the same philosophy as Nōku Te Ao.

Last year, the Māori Language Commission Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori recognised the early childhood centre’s contribution to education. It awarded Nōku Te Ao the winner in the Education-Māori Medium category of the Māori Language Awards Ngā Tohu Reo Māori Award.

“It’s really good and it means we have won one award in the mainstream system and one in the Māori world,” Dy says. “What we’re doing is good in both worlds.”

The process of entering the awards was straightforward for Nōku Te Ao. Dy had been doing additional study so part of the evidence submitted in the entry came from her university writing. “The best way to learn something is to have to teach it,” she says.

“We had to explain everything for the Prime Minister’s Awards in plain English. That really helped us understand ourselves and what we’re trying to do better.”

When it comes to the awards, Dy says educators should give it a go and enter. “What’s the worst that can happen?” she says. “Do your homework, see what other people are doing, ask the questions."

“If you’ve got something that the rest of the world needs to see and hear about, go ahead and enter. It’s not just about entering something and winning, it’s about sharing it with other people and being an inspiration.”

The latest ERO report for Nōku Te Ao was excellent, says Dy, with no areas identified for improvement. “Our review period has gone from three to four years, which means they’re not worried about us at all,” she says.

So what is next for Nōku Te Ao and their education journey? “We always get asked that and it’s scary!” Dy says. “It’s becoming a little movement of its own.”

Scary it may be, but as Dy also says, if you shoot for the stars, you know you will end up somewhere nearby.

Prime Minister’s Education Excellence Awards

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BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:34 pm, 9 February 2016

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