Successes extracted from roots
Huntly’s Ngawai Toka has been named as the only kohanga reo teacher in this year’s round of Kupe scholarships.
The prestigious scholarship aims to attract Maori and Pasifika high achievers to teaching and support them to become inspiring teachers and role models in early childhood, primary and secondary education.
Last week Toka was presented the scholarship in Wellington by Education Minister Hekia Parata.
’’I was really grateful but was nervous at the same time... you just really felt valued as a teacher.’’
The $15,000 award will go towards Toka’s Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi degree she is set to complete in October.
Toka had previously studied in travel and tourism but early childhood education had always been her passion, she said.
The 37-year old mother of four is a teacher at the full immersion Rahui Pokeka Te Kohanga Reo at Waahi Pa.
It’s where her roots are - she remembers growing up on the marae and was one of the first students at the kohanga when it was opened in 1982.
Toka has never moved away - Huntly has always been her home, she said.
She remembers her childhood at the marae fondly, enjoying the simple things in life and making fun out of nothing.
‘‘We just used to climb up on the trees and eat fruit...[and] we used to climb up on the roof of the marae, which was a no no.’’
Everyone was a part of your family on the marae, she said, it was a real community.
It’s the kind of foundation she believes is important for children.
‘‘It’s about their iwi, their marae, their hapu, that is the first goal - to give them a sense of belonging.’’
Toka’s hope for the future is to entice more teachers to kohanga reo.
‘‘I want it to be at the same level as the other [type of schools] in the education sectors.’’
Parata said she was ‘‘delighted’’ with the ‘‘calibre’’ of the scholars that proceed into teaching careers. ’’They have already demonstrated high academic achievement, leadership, and close links with their communities, and this scholarship provides them the opportunity to make a real difference for kids in the classroom.’’
Toka was one of 10 from Waikato.
Ngawai Toka and her students.