Fostering a culture of language learning

Issue: Volume 95, Number 15

Posted: 22 August 2016
Reference #: 1H9d3j

Judith Riki, Moana Timoko and Maurice Nelson recently received Māori Medium Bilingual Education Study Awards to enhance their teaching practice. Education Gazette finds out how it has changed their work.

Passion And Drive: Maurice Nelson

Maurice Nelson’s life has changed considerably since he embarked on his Māori Medium Bilingual Education Study Award.

A resident of Waiheke Island for 28 years, Maurice was teaching at Waiheke Primary, but he and his whānau have since made the move to the mainland where he now teaches te reo Māori at St Mary’s College.

The award allowed Maurice to attend Te Wānanga Takiura o Ngā Kura Kaupapa Māori o Aotearoa in Onehunga, where he studied te reo Māori education in a full immersion environment.

“We were encouraged to speak te reo Māori at all times – both in the class sessions and during our breaks,” he says.

“In moving into the secondary school environment, I felt I was really challenging my language skills. I enjoyed the time I spent teaching at Waiheke Primary very much, but this has been an exciting move for me and the whānau."

“My passion and my drive is to learn more about the language and to help my students by being the best teacher I can be,” he says.

“I pinch myself sometimes – I feel very fortunate to be doing this.”

At St Mary’s College, it’s compulsory for all year 7 students to learn te reo Māori along with Latin, French and Mandarin, and Maurice believes this contributes to a strong language-learning culture at the school.

“All students that come through the school must learn four languages in their first year, so I have the opportunity to teach every student te reo Māori,” he says.

“I believe we need to have languages ingrained in a child’s learning – and having a taste of it at year 7 is a great way of doing that.”

Maurice was inspired to start teaching te reo Māori while living and teaching on Waiheke Island.

“In my last year there, I was fortunate to have some fantastic colleagues and leaders who gave me the opportunity to start something in the school."

“I was able to nurture the learning of Māori culture and language in the school, and I also set up a kapa haka group. More than half of the students joined in!"

“From there it branched out – I was given the opportunity to teach Māori in every classroom. That was great for my practice, but also for the students and the community as a whole.”

Another part of Maurice’s role was to liaise with teachers from nearby schools.

“We were working together to ensure each student had a good progression of consistent learning, starting with new entrants at the primary school."

“But of course it starts before tamariki even get to school, so I would also meet with early childhood education teachers and we’d talk about transitions between schools – it was about working together to look at the whole learning journey of a child.”

Maurice says that undertaking the study was a positive experience that has enhanced his understanding of how learning te reo Māori fits within the wider context of our culture.

“I found the teachers to be incredibly supportive and warm. The culture at the wānanga really was all about the people."

“There’s a lot more to it than learning to write and read – there’s a rich culture, history and set of values."

“I’m thankful for Waiheke Primary who enabled me to take the year off – if it wasn’t for the people there, I wouldn’t have started on this journey. I really felt that receiving this award was like winning Lotto.”

Kōrero With Confidence: Moana Timoko

Moana Timoko is currently working as a relief teacher and member of the management team at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Kaikohe.

“My role at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Kaikohe is ‘Kaiwhakatakoto Huarahi’. I work alongside kaiako and mainly with wharekura students providing academic guidance and extra support in all areas,” she says.

Moana also works for CORE Education as a PLD facilitator in digital technologies in Māori Medium settings.

In 2015, she was awarded a Māori Medium Bilingual Education Study Award to reflect the part-time nature of her work, and she undertook te reo Māori classes in the immersion rumaki course at Te Wānanga Takiura in Royal Oak, Auckland.

“The course consolidated a lot of my previous studies and challenged me to think of how I might continue to share and teach our language,” she says.

This year, Moana is completing a Te Ataarangi tutor course with Rahera Shortland who was recently awarded a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Māori, education and television.

It was Moana’s grandmother who first planted the seed of teaching in her granddaughter.

“My Nanny, Hoana Timoko (nee Rogers) was a teacher and I remember thinking that I wanted to be just like her,” she says.

“I remember a few occasions where she did some relief work at my primary school, and in my class. I also have memories of her Sunday School lessons at the Methodist Church in Manurewa."

“I was intrigued by her stationery and handmade teaching resources. I know I was proud to tell the other kids that she was my Nanny and I was probably very bossy and got to do whatever I wanted.”

In fact, teaching is ingrained in Moana’s whakapapa.

Hoana Timoko established the kōhanga reo in Manurewa, and her sister, Moana’s great-aunt Wikitoria Anderson also led the establishment of Ngā Puāwai o Wikitoria kōhanga reo in Papakura.

Moana’s father Wiringi has been a teacher at Northland College for more than 30 years and her mother Marea is Tumuaki of Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Kaikohe.

Moana believes that confidence is important when it comes to teaching language skills.

“In the past I had learnt and taught te reo Māori from textbooks, but I think it’s great to learn from confident speakers of the language,” she says.

“Hearing the language is important, but speaking and participating in conversations regardless of your skill level is the best way to actually improve."

“I’m forever getting tongue-tied or lost for kupu, but I really appreciate the time that anyone takes to correct or prompt me to get it right."

“I’m lucky – I work amongst many great Ngāpuhi speakers of te reo Māori.”

Using Language To Connect With Whakapapa: Judith Riki

Judith Riki is associate principal/pouhiwa at Te Whānau o Tupuranga, the bilingual unit at Kia Aroha College in Otara, Auckland.

She recently received a Māori Medium Bilingual Education Study Award and is currently working on a professional doctoral thesis at Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi.

“The main emphasis of my study is looking at how my female whānau members retain and maintain our Te Aupouritanga/tribal identity in Te Aō Hurihuri,” she says.

“I’ve found that the study award has been very relevant and useful in my work, because a small number of my participants are fluent speakers of te reo, and two were native speakers, so I was able to tailor my research questions accordingly."

“With three of my participants, English was used, and with the others we spoke a mixture of English and te reo Māori."

“So the bilingual study award has been very useful in the way I conducted my research and what I’ve been learning about language, identity and culture,” she says.

Judith’s doctoral research comes from a long-held desire to connect to whānau history and preserve the voice of her elderly aunts, who were also teachers.

“I started thinking about doing this work a few years ago. One of my aunties taught at St Joseph’s Māori Girls’ College for over 30 years, and another had been teaching in Sydney for a number of years."

“When these aunties returned to Te Kao in Tai Tokerau back in the 70s, they always tried to re-engage, to connect with us kids, and ask us questions about our lives.“

Education – and more specifically teaching – features strongly in Judith’s whakapapa.

“Mum and Dad were teachers. Mum attended Auckland Teachers’ College and Dad attended Ardmore Teachers’ Training College. Then he travelled up to Te Kao in Northland and met our mother,” she says.

Later, Judith’s father was principal at Ngataki School in Kaitaia, and in the late 60s, the family moved to Otara, where Judith and her siblings were educated. Both she and her late brother have worked as teachers and deputy principals.

“Education was always very important to my parents, and they ensured we maintained tribal engagement and upheld the values of Te Aupouri and Ngai Tāmanuhiri,” she says.

Judith has also been strongly influenced by her work in the Māori bilingual environment at Te Whānau o Tupuranga at Kia Aroha College.

“In 2012, I was fortunate to accompany our principal Dr Ann Milne with students and colleagues to the AERA conference in Vancouver. Our students co-presented some research about our school.”

Judith says that Ann’s doctoral research Colouring in the White Spaces: Reclaiming Cultural Identity in Whitestream Schools (2013) has been influential in her own studies and teaching.

“Many of our students at Kia Aroha College are urbanised, second or third-generation Ngāpuhi,” says Judith.

“When I’m supporting students with NCEA, I’m helping them talk about the stories that affect their realities, their whānau, identity, language and culture.”

What Is A Māori Medium Bilingual Education Study Award?

A Māori Medium Bilingual Education Study Award is an opportunity for a teacher or principal to take leave to improve their proficiency in te reo Māori me āna tikanga Māori and their skills as a bilingual or immersion teacher.

The study award enables teachers and principals to complete a postgraduate-level qualification in Māori-medium teaching at either Te Wānanga o Raukawa, the University of Canterbury or the University of Waikato.

To be eligible for a Māori Medium Bilingual Education Study Award, you must:

  • be fully registered as an early childhood, primary or secondary teacher
  • be permanently employed in a kōhanga reo, ngā puna kōhungahunga, puna reo, licensed early childhood education service or a state or state-integrated school
  • have proficiency in te reo Māori
  • have teaching experience in immersion and bilingual settings
  • be committed to developing te reo Māori and tikanga Māori knowledge and skills
  • have applied to enrol in one of the three approved qualifications
  • have the support of your employer (principal and board of trustees, or early childhood education centre).

Find more information about the awards on the TeachNZ website(external link) 

By Melissa Wastney

BY Melissa Wastney
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 2:53 pm, 22 August 2016

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