Tuesday 16 October 2018 1:40pm
Otago entrance scholarship recipient Vanessa Spooner (right) with her daughter Kendra (left) and father Philip.
Education is the best way that you can turn your life around, according to Vanessa Spooner.
The first-year Bachelor of Teaching student at the University of Otago – College of Education Southland campus is incredibly grateful to all her lecturers who have supported her in what’s been a highly challenging, but rewarding year.
Last October she decided that teaching would be the best way that she could make a difference in people’s lives, and applied to the University of Otago for an entrance scholarship. The 46-year-old single parent was over the moon to be awarded a scholarship and began her studies in February.
"My lecturers have been absolutely amazing, they’ve supported me, and are all very keen for me to succeed."
The scholarship has been a huge support for Vanessa, who moved from a full-time job to full-time study. She’s the sole caregiver of her father Philip, who moved from Gisborne to Invercargill at the start of the year to be closer to his family, but has since been diagnosed with dementia.
“My lecturers have been absolutely amazing, they’ve supported me, and are all very keen for me to succeed.”
Of Ngati Porou, Ngati Kahungunu, Ngati Raukawa, and Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti descent, she was born in Napier, and went to Lytton High School in Gisborne, then worked in Gisborne for several years and over a decade in Australia, before returning to Gisborne in 2010.
“I moved back to Gisborne so that my children could be much closer to their whānau.”
Her grandmother was a strong role model and a teacher, and that has helped spur Vanessa to follow her into teaching. Working as a teacher aid at her old high school opened Vanessa’s eyes to a wide range of educational challenges, and she decided to specialise in bicultural education.
Vanessa moved to Invercargill in 2016 and studied a social services qualification at SIT, and then worked at the Southland Help Rape and Abuse Support Centre, where she still works part-time today.
"OUSA has been an amazing journey, and a highlight has been helping design a logo that represents Te Ahuahu Matauranga – Southland campus."
Her daughter Kendra (13) attends high school in Invercargill, while her son Tondra (22) works in Gisborne.
Vanessa was surprised and honoured to be made a Southland campus member of the Otago University Students’ Association (OUSA).
“OUSA has been an amazing journey, and a highlight has been helping design a logo that represents Te Ahuahu Matauranga – Southland campus.”
Not only has she done all this, but she travelled to China in May with the Influence Crew to take part in the Great Wall of China Marathon. Vanessa was part of a New Zealand group of 88 runners that opened the event with a rousing haka. More than 3,500 people applied to take part in the Influence Crew, which was founded by Aucklander Doug Healey, who overcame a horrific accident to now coordinate team marathons around the world for others who’ve overcome adversity.
Vanessa is finding it a real balancing act, with studies, work, and whānau, but with the excellent and highly supportive team in Invercargill she knows that she will get through her degree, and can’t wait to bring all her new skills to the classroom.