Pursuing a passion for teaching

Education Gazette asks two TeachNZ Kupe Scholarship recipients about the impact the scholarships have had on their teaching journey.


Meet Fiana

Fiana Tuli received a TeachNZ Kupe Pacific High Achiever Scholarship. She is a third-year teacher at Holy Cross Catholic School in Papatoetoe, Auckland.

Q: How did you find out about the scholarships and what made you decide to apply?

Fiana: I found out about the scholarship online and decided to apply because I already had a large amount owing on my student loan from my previous degree and thought this would be great to alleviate financial stress.

Q: What did it mean for you, when you found out you’d received a scholarship?   

Fiana: It was the greatest blessing – not just for myself but for my family who have supported me throughout my learning journey. Receiving the scholarship not only made me a proud Tongan recipient but it boosted my motivation and confidence to finish the graduate diploma on a high. It relieved some of the financial pressure on me and my family. 

Q: Who or what most inspired you to become a teacher?

Fiana: I truly believe that a child’s upbringing plays a crucial part in what they do later in life. We as teachers spend 41 weeks – 205 days a year – with these little human beings. This goes to show that teachers have a GREAT impact in a child’s life. 

If a teacher teaches faka’apa’apa (respect), a child will learn what this looks like, sounds like and feels like. If a teacher teaches mamahi’i me’a (passion), a child will understand how to appreciate the love of learning. If a teacher teaches resilience, a child will learn to build themselves up socially, mentally and emotionally to face life’s issues appropriately. This is why I am a teacher because I love having the power to make a difference in these kids’ lives! 

Q: What special abilities have you been able to bring to your teaching practice because of your identity, language or culture?

Fiana: The love I have for my Tongan identity, language and culture have shone through my teaching practice. I was given the arts unit in my second year of teaching which allowed me to take care of celebrating and acknowledging all the language weeks at my school. My experience in tutoring traditional Tongan dance for many years helped with this. 

Q: In your opinion, what is the role of teaching in today’s world?

Fiana: As a teacher, we get the pleasure of playing many roles in a child’s life. You get to play the teacher, the nurse, the clown, the counsellor, the mum, the dad, the guardian, the mediator, the fitness coach, the dancer, the actor – all in one day. 

Q: What would you say to someone who is thinking of becoming a teacher today?

Fiana: I would say, if you want the power to make a difference in the lives of 26 little human beings – DO IT!

Teaching isn’t a profession where you have to know everything before you start. It is an ongoing and never-ending learning process where you only get better and better. No two days are ever going to be the same and there will be some little bumps on your journey so embrace it, breathe in and keep going. 

Q: What do you most hope your students remember about being taught by you?

Fiana: I hope my students remember me as being the firm, fair and fun teacher. The teacher who pushed each student to reach their full potential even if it meant staying in during their lunch breaks to complete the one maths problem she knew they could solve.

The teacher who loved her culture and loved her family because she had so many stories to tell.

Watch Fiana talk about her journey

Meet Ivan

Ivan Kana received a TeachNZ Kupe Māori High Achiever Scholarship. He is a teacher at Aotea College, Porirua where he teaches health and physical education, dance and te reo Māori.

Ivan Kana

Q: How did you find out about the scholarships and what made you decide to apply?

Ivan: The Māori Liaison officer at Waikato University encouraged me to apply.

Q: What did it mean for you, when you found out you’d received a scholarship?

Ivan: I was super stoked – not only for myself but for my whānau.

Q: Who or what most inspired you to become a teacher?

Ivan: A mixture of myself, whānau and good friends.   

Q: What special abilities have you been able to bring to your teaching practice because of your identity, language or culture?

Ivan: I think empathy would be a big one. And I enjoy building relationships with anyone and everyone. Every bit of contact is an opportunity to learn or offer something.

Culture and identity is something else I offer. Although te reo Māori isn’t my first language, I’m on the path to strengthening that every day. My reo isn’t currently where I want it to be at the moment but I’m learning.

Q: In your opinion, what is the role of teaching in today’s world?

Ivan: There are many I can think of but I feel that a lot of students just want to feel like they ‘belong’ and that they are a part of something. So I really think we as teachers have the ability to support this.

Q: What would you say to someone who is thinking of becoming a teacher today?

Ivan: You’ll never regret it.

Q: What do you most hope your students remember about being taught by you?

Ivan: That I was fair, inclusive and funny.

Q: Aside from schools you’ve taught in, are there any places of special significance to your teaching journey?

Ivan: The marae, community centres and sports clubs, past workplaces, specific whānau members and my wife have all contributed to who and where I am today.

I have had a number of jobs in the past such as a courier driver, holiday programme worker, community health worker, gym instructor, personal trainer and many more and I have picked up many skills from these positions.

In terms of te ao Māori, I have to credit my dad and aunties for teaching me tikanga and kawa and also trying their best with me when it comes to speaking in te reo Māori.  

Watch Ivan talk about his journey 

TeachNZ Scholarship Programme

The TeachNZ scholarship programme aims to enable equitable access to teaching by reducing significant barriers that some individuals have in entering initial teacher education.

The programme aims to get the right teachers in the right place at the right time. Scholarship criteria is weighted to address areas that are experiencing teacher supply pressure, such as sectors or subjects.  

The Kupe Scholarship is part of the TeachNZ scholarship programme. Teachers of Māori or Pacific descent who, like Ivan and Fiana, see themselves becoming outstanding role models in early childhood, primary or secondary education should consider applying to become a Kupe Scholar. 

In addition to the Kupe Scholarships, there are also a range of general and Māori medium scholarships available. Visit the scholarships page on the TeachNZ website for more information and to apply (Round 2 is between 6 December 2019 and 24 January 2020).

TeachNZ website

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