Suc­cesses ex­tracted from roots

North Waikato News - - FRONT PAGE - CAITLIN WAL­LACE

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.

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