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New Pacific Islands Students' Support Officer wants to share positive experiences

Friday 12 February 2021 9:41am

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New Division of Humanities Pacific Islands Students’ Support Officer Telesia Lei-Mata’afa wants to help students have the same positive experience at Otago that she enjoyed.

Telesia graduated with a Bachelor of Teaching, endorsed in Primary Education, from Otago’s College of Education in 2013.

A highlight of her time at Otago was exposure to papers and teaching that reflected, and promoted, diversity.

“It was fantastic learning from lecturers of Pacific descent, taking Education papers focused on Māori and Pacific issues, and seeing what Te Tumu and so many places around the University were doing. It was one of the best times of my life – I learned so much and am still friends with so many people from Otago.”

After graduating she taught at Kingslea School, a school in Dunedin for young people in Care and Protection, for seven years.

“I always wanted to teach children perceived as being ‘in the gap’ to challenge misconceptions about ‘naughty kids’, when in fact the situation many of these children had been put in meant they didn’t ‘succeed’ in a mainstream school. Showing they were capable, and creating positive experiences with a range of people was really important.”

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Associate Professor Patrick Vakaoti

Telesia grew up in Dunedin surrounded by many immediate and extended family members. Her father comes from the villages of Puleia Gataivai in Savai’i and her mother is from Upolu.

“I’m really excited to be at the University because I wanted to give back to the Pacific community and stay involved with education. I hope to engage with students, so they know I’m happy to support them in any way, and so they have a memorable, rewarding time at University.”

Humanities Associate Dean Pacific Associate Professor Patrick Vakaoti says the Division will benefit greatly from her knowledge.

"Telesia is a qualified teacher who comes to us with years of teaching experience with young people. This will be invaluable in her role, one that involves frequent interaction with our diverse Pacific student population. Telesia is an alumna of Otago, thus she is familiar with the University environment and what it’s like to be a Pacific student here. Meeting the needs of students is central her role and we’re excited to see what Telesia does in this space".