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New horizons for high-achieving wahine toa

Issue: Volume 100, Number 6

Posted: 20 May 2021
Reference #: 1HAKtr

Moana Tautua is always looking for a new challenge on the horizon, and is aware that she carries the hopes and dreams of her tīpuna and whānau as she paddles her waka through her teaching career.

Moana with Year 3 ākonga Nathanael, Aurora and Rosa.

Moana with Year 3 ākonga Nathanael, Aurora and Rosa.

The mother of four tamariki and wife of a pastor has been awarded NEiTA (National Excellence in Teaching Award)’s inaugural Early Career Award.

After almost 15 years working behind the scenes for media companies, Moana (Ngāti Porou, Te Whānau-ā-Apanui and Cook Islands) decided to take up teaching. Her path at university was awash with awards and scholarships,  including a prestigious TeachNZ Kupe scholarship and recognition as the top second-year student and Māori student, plus she graduated as Senior Scholar at the University of Auckland.

“I knew when I went into studying that it was a huge sacrifice for my whānau, so I really wanted to make sure that I honoured them and what they were also sacrificing with me. I always knew I was going to work hard.

“I’ve always been raised to give everything your best – it’s all or nothing. I come from a whānau where I am just one of many who are successful in their own professions. What I have achieved is simply a reflection of those who have raised and supported me along the way.”

Restoring mana

Moana grew up in Dunedin, where she was raised by her koro, who did not teach her, nor want her to learn, te reo Māori.

“I remember when I was five and starting school, my koro said, ‘Don’t speak any Māori at school or the teachers will smack you’. He still carried a lot of fear and mamae because of his own experiences at school.

“When I went to high school, where te reo Māori was a subject option, my koro said I was not allowed to learn the language because it would do me no good in this world. He told me to learn te reo Pākehā, as that would ‘help me survive’.

She secretly chose the subject anyway. “I distinctly remember the first moment my koro heard me speak in te reo Māori. He came to watch me when I was competing at the Manu Kōrero speech competitions and I had entered in the English section. Before my speech, I did my pepeha and mihimihi in te reo, which my uncle had taught me.

“My grandad was sitting in the audience crying his eyes out. He couldn’t believe I was standing there saying our pepeha and that it was okay to do that,” she remembers.

Now in her fifth year of teaching, Moana can notch up some significant achievements that help to honour the mana of her koro and whānau and invigorate the mana of the tamariki she teaches.

Bilingual unit

After three years of teaching at her first school, Farm Cove Intermediate, Moana saw the opportunity to establish a junior (Years 1–3) bilingual unit, Te Rito Pōtiki, at Te Papapa School in Onehunga. The junior bilingual unit was opened at the beginning of 2019.

The kura values bilingual education and adopts an additive approach. Moana says principal Robyn Curry is a key driver behind supporting the teaching and use of te reo Māori, with all teachers expected to be teaching at Level 4a in the subject. 

While she teaches The New Zealand Curriculum, Moana says a lot of instruction in her classroom is delivered in te reo Māori. She aspires to play her part in revitalising te reo for her pupils and their whānau.

Moana Tautua teaching tamariki te reo Māori through poi and waiata at Te Papapa School in Onehunga.

Moana Tautua teaching tamariki te reo Māori through poi and waiata at Te Papapa School in Onehunga.

Lifting wairua

“I think the bilingual units in my kura make it easier for our whānau Māori in a sense that they have a teacher who understands them and their child. There are a lot of things that feel familiar without needing to explain them. I know that as a teacher, everything I do seems normal to them – there is this common language and understanding between us.

“I can see the pride that the parents have when they see their kids embracing and sharing their Māoritanga. It’s almost this vicarious desire for your kids to have and live out what was taken from you. It’s seeing them reconnect to their tīpuna,” she says.

Moana has observed significant shifts in the tamariki in her class, where they have accelerated academically.

“I remember when I was teaching a reading lesson in te reo Māori, one boy finally managed to read through a whole page perfectly and when he had finished, he looked at me and asked, ‘Whaea Moana, does this mean I can read in Māori now?’

“When I said yes, his whole wairua lifted. It was almost as if his tīpuna were shining through his eyes. You can’t explain these things, but man, it was like my tīpuna were greeting his in that moment!”

Connecting with whānau

When Covid-19 reached the shores of Aotearoa, Moana says she had been watching what was happening overseas and leapt into action to develop a digital learning programme for her tamariki and their whānau. She was new to the school and used her strengths in digital technology to build relationships during Level 4 lockdown.

“I quickly built a website, started up a YouTube channel and made tutorials and videos to include in my daily Zoom sessions. I also set up a Facebook page because I knew that for my particular community, I had to consider all the possible barriers and try to provide alternative options.

“Most parents are frequently on Facebook and it doesn’t require them needing credit to message me back. It’s one of the tools from our lockdown kete that we’ve kept going as a window to our classroom. I post every day and my parents are able to message me through Facebook. They are engaging all the time, which has been incredible.”

With the many challenges her parents and students faced throughout lockdown, Moana tried to ensure they would see value in her remote learning programme. She set up multiple platforms and phoned whānau about linking up to Zoom lessons on any device.

“I knew I had one chance to capture my audience, or they wouldn’t see the need to engage with my learning each day.

“From my very first lesson I included karakia, waiata, a te reo Māori lesson and a daily hands-on challenge. I made sure that all my tasks were things my tamariki could complete on their own, but were flexible enough for other family members to engage with.

“I noticed from that first lesson that tamariki and their whānau were consistently engaging with the learning and appreciated the face-to-face contact with each other when we were all under strict lockdown conditions,” she says.

New challenges

Moana describes herself as a waka that will always seek new horizons. From term 2, she has taken up a new challenge at St Cuthbert’s Junior School in Epsom.

“My next endeavour is to go into a completely different community and continue to share my cultural strengths and skill sets there.

“Te Papapa is a beautiful kura that is rich in culture and a sense of belonging. After I leave, they will still have three Māori teachers paddling the waka for te ao Māori. For me to be able go into a kura like
St Cuthbert’s and take all that I am with me, I believe, is the next natural step,” she says.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 8:31 am, 20 May 2021

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