Passion for sharing language and culture

Issue: Volume 99, Number 10

Posted: 29 June 2020
Reference #: 1HA8dK

A Newlands College teacher who received a TeachNZ Tipu Whakarito Te Reo Māori scholarship is making a significant difference in only his second full year at the school.

Kealyn Marshall (Te Whānau-a-Apanui, Ngā Ruahine, Ngā Rauru, Ngāti Pamoana & Te Atihaunui-ā-paparangi) is kaiako of business studies, economics and te reo Māori and Māori performing arts. He has been instrumental in driving kapa haka at the Wellington high school.

He grew up in a te reo Māori-speaking whānau in Whanganui, brought up by his mum and his nan. He spent time with other grandparents who lived on a marae on the Whanganui River. He attended kōhanga reo, before switching to mainstream primary school and high school.

“I was fortunate enough to be brought up by my nan, who was a native speaker of te reo Māori. I feel that I was brought up in both worlds: that I was exposed to Te Ao Māori and Te Ao Pākehā,” he says. 

“At boarding school in Palmerston North, there were two teachers who were strong in Te Ao Māori and I really resonated with them and they made an effort to make a connection with me and my Māori peers. 

“They worked really hard for us, provided us with all these opportunities, made sure we were proud to be Māori and I really wanted to be able to provide that same experience for my tauira [students]. If I could represent that in a mainstream school, that was something I really wanted to do.” 

OE confirmed love of culture

When Kealyn finished school, he felt he was strong in his language and culture but wanted to experience more. He worked in the UK and spent 12 months travelling in Europe.

“It confirmed for me that my own language and culture is really important, and I should always base my foundation off that to be able to be successful.  

“I came home and began study at Victoria University, where I pursued my love of my own culture through studying te reo Māori and also my huge interest in the business world and developing economic growth.” 

Kealyn’s journey towards teaching was supported by a TeachNZ scholarship, which covered the cost of his course fees and provided him with an annual study allowance.

“I decided to go teaching because I felt there were lots of Māori kids who didn’t necessarily have the access to the Māori education sector, in terms of kura kaupapa Māori. I wanted to ensure that those Māori kids would have the same education experience in a mainstream school that our total immersion kids would have.

“Lots of my colleagues and friends ask me why I don’t work in a Māori immersion school and I say: ‘We have lots of Māori here at Newlands College and we’ve got to ensure that those 10 per cent get the same, if not better, learning experience as Māori in an immersion school.”

Support from senior leadership

Kealyn says Newlands College has been developing its focus on te reo and Te Ao Māori significantly. 

“We’ve been working really, really hard. We re-established kapa haka last year and that was a huge milestone for Newlands College. We took them back to the regionals, went on a four-day excursion to the Whanganui River and we stayed on my marae at Koroniti. That was really significant and also awesome to see our kids represent themselves so proudly at the Wellington Secondary School Regional Kapa Haka competition. 

“We work closely alongside our senior leadership team in terms of discussions around things Māori and also work alongside staff to ensure the school is adhering to our commitment to Te Tiriti and to Te Ao Māori.

“We really do put it down to the support that our senior leadership team provides us. It’s kind of like a tuakana teina partnership where, when it comes to things Māori, we are the tuakana [mentors]. They have found that in allowing those opportunities, they have learned a lot and it’s really awesome to see,” he says.

Mahi produces results

While it was initially hard mahi to get whānau involved in kapa haka at the school last year, Kealyn and his team were blown away when 100 people turned up at a whānau hui at the start of 2020.

“We only had about five whānau in the first year who would turn up week in, week out – who would take time off work to come and help our kaupapa, provide kai for our kids, drop the kids off after practice wherever they lived,” he says.

“When we came back this year, there were over 100 people at our first whānau hui. We couldn’t believe how far we had come in such a small time. It was really awesome to see that the mahi we put in last year, and the contribution those core whānau had made, had got back out into the community. 

“We knew there were a lot of Māori coming through in our new Year 9 intake, but we just needed them to get in the door and be comfortable with being part of the learning journey here at Newlands.” 

Building relationships works

Kealyn believes that forming relationships with all students – Māori and non-Māori – through whanaungatanga and manaakitanga helps students become connected and confident lifelong learners.

“Building relationships with them is really important, valuing things Māori, encouraging them to be proud to be Māori and also providing pathways, learning experiences, opportunities – things like kapa haka – in our school.  

“What works for Māori works for all kids.
I have high expectations for all my students – we want them to be always pursuing excellence and pushing themselves to do the best that they can. It doesn’t matter what upbringing, ethnicity or cultural background that they come from; we want them to be the best they can. I find that the values that have been instilled in me through tikanga Māori and Te Ao Māori work really well for all students because you are digging deeper into that whole learning experience.  

“The more opportunities I can give for whānau to be involved in the learning, breaks down some of those barriers that otherwise they would have found challenging in terms of being involved in the learning of their tamariki.”

Business is important too

As for Kealyn’s passion for economics and business: he says that in terms of studying, he wanted to have pathways into both the Māori world and the business world. 

“I think that being Māori we have the values and the culture to be successful in any pathway that we choose. Particularly in the business world, where, as Māori, we have the opportunity to make a difference or have an impact on the economic growth of our whānau, hapū and Iwi. 

“Academia isn’t the be-all and end-all throughout the learning journey. But if I’m able to instil some key principles and values, or help kids to identify what their values and principles are, then they will be successful no matter what they choose to do – whether it’s go to university, get an apprenticeship, or perhaps just get a job and start to work.”

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BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:22 am, 29 June 2020

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