Tauira to Tumuaki: Reg Blake gives back to his kura in Tauranga

Issue: Volume 102, Number 5

Posted: 20 April 2023
Reference #: 1HA_Te

Reg Blake was a student at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Otepou – a small school in Welcome Bay, Tauranga – from 1996 to 2002. Eighteen years later he returned to the kura as tumuaki, to give back to the community.

Reg Blake is tumuaki at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Otepou.

Reg Blake is tumuaki at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Otepou.

The walls at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Otepou are the same walls Reg Blake would stare at when he was a student at the kura 18 years ago. 

Standing in that same school as tumuaki now, the bricks on the ground, the green doors and the carpet evoke memories for him. 

“When I stand here today, I look back at how many people have given to the kaupapa. I think of those who used to sit on the paepae here and they’re now laying at the urupa down the road from us. 

“I draw my kaha and I draw my energy from those who have passed on,” he says.

Reg says it was the norm for Kaumātua to turn up to the many kaupapa when he was a student. One of his fondest memories is seeing the paepae full of those Kaumātua.

“Now it’s me and a couple parents who have to man the paepae because our Kaumātua are stretched in our rohe,” he says.

Reg left Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Otepou in 2002 and attended Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Koutu in Rotorua for a year before returning to Otepou to attend wharekura and later attend Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Kura Kōkiri. 

“Otepou set the foundation and I will always pay homage to my teachers of my years when I was there, where each had gifted me some type of skill or some type of something that I am able to today put into fruition or put into action,” he says. 

A long ride

When asked how old he was when he realised he wanted to become a teacher, Reg laughs.

“To be honest, I did not want to be a teacher. When I say we were chucked in the deep end – I really mean that.”

Straight out of kura, Reg and about 11 others went for “a ride” in a van. They didn’t know where they were going, or how long the ride would be until they arrived in Ōtaki – home to Te Wānanga o Raukawa. 

“We had no bags, we had no blankets, we didn’t even know what we were up to until the driver goes ‘right we’re staying here for the weekend and you’re starting your teaching course’.”

Reg says although teaching is not what he wanted to do at that time, he is “truly grateful” to Te Kura Kōkiri for recognising there was a need for kaiako Māori. He says this is what kept him going during his studies.

“I just kept reminiscing on the people that did the long fight – those who are still fighting today for the benefits of tamariki Māori.”

Reg laughs as he retells that story, but adds, “look where I am today. So, I kind of pay homage to that humble beginning.”

Reg finished his teaching degree in 2010 and graduated in 2011. He spent a year teaching at a kura Māori in Temuka, a small town not far from Timaru in South Canterbury, before returning to Te Kura Kōkiri to teach for eight years. 

On 12 June 2020 – his late dad’s birthday and 24 years after he started at the school as a student – he became tumuaki of Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Otepou. 

More than a J.O.B

Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Otepou is home to 74 students and eight staff including Reg. 

Much like the story of how he became a teacher, Reg initially did not want to become a tumuaki.

“I’m more of a ‘do the mahi, put in the hard yards’. I don’t care about titles, and I don’t care about the pay scales,” he says.

But the staff at the kura had been encouraging Reg, who has been the kapa haka tutor since 2018, to learn the principalship with the goal of taking over.

When the tumuaki position became available, Reg applied with the support of Te Kura Kōkiri and his whānau. 

He was shortlisted and after an interview he was offered the position of tumuaki. 

“I had to go back to my whānau and say are you ready to support me? Are we ready to sign our whānau into this knowing that we are here not on a J.O.B agenda but a lifestyle agenda?”

Giving back to the community 

“It takes a village to raise a tamaiti,” says Reg.

It took a village to raise him and now, as tumuaki, he is trying to bring that pedagogy back to the kura.

“I let the whānau know they also have a voice in how our kura is governed and how our kura is run. The Board is just an entity that looks after the kura.
But really whānau, you have a huge say.”

Reg says he had to do a lot of repairing when he took on the role as tumuaki, rebuilding relationships with the hapū, iwi and community.

“The community is part of the bigger picture of helping to raise our tamariki. If I’m going to build resilience among our tamariki, I’m going to need help and assistance from the community.”

Reg says now the kura is called upon for many kaupapa, and his students are not only ready – they are excited. He says seeing that passion in his tamariki has been special.

“It’s my way of decolonising the tamaiti, to try and be Māori before anything.”

Reg has big dreams for the kura and its community.

“My long-term vision is for our community to be a reo Māori speaking community by 2030. My vision is that our tamariki, who will be young teenagers come 2030, will be sitting on the paepae, with their nan and koro doing their waiata tautoko.”

Reg says he is extremely thankful to the current and past members of Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Otepou Board for their continued support and guidance.

Education Gazette first met Reg Blake as part of a video on learning in local contexts in Tauranga Moana. Watch Reg and his Te Tai Whanake ki Tauranga Moana Kaitiaki Group colleagues.

Learning in local contexts: Tauranga Moana

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

Posted: 9:39 am, 20 April 2023

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