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Resilience, perseverance key for teaching graduate

Monday 16 May 2022 11:58am

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Master of Teaching and Learning graduate Tawhai Huriwai (right) and his father Jim at graduation on 14 May (Photo: Craig Birch-Morunga)

Ko Puhanga tohorā toku maunga
Ko Mangatawa tōku awa
Ko Ngā Puhi rāua ko Ngāti Porou ōku iwi
Ko Ngai Tuteauru tōku hapu
Nō Otaua ahau
Ko Tawhai Huriwai tōku ingoa

North East Valley Normal School teacher Tawhai Huriwai’s education journey led to “resilience and perseverance”, two values that are now prominent features in all his teaching.

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Tawhai playing in Tough Guy

Tawhai came to Ōtepoti Dunedin five years ago after gaining an undergraduate degree in contemporary music at SIT. He completed a Master of Teaching and Learning last year, graduating on 14 May.

Before getting his degree, Tawhai was homeschooled, an experience that presented both challenges and opportunities.

“The best thing about homeschooling is that learning is more than something you do for a few hours a day. It is something that is happening everywhere, all the time. The hardest part was the paperwork when I decided to head to tertiary study – it turns out you need this thing called NCEA.

“I did have to work a little bit longer and complete some entry-level stuff to prove my competency. But pushing through all the tricky stuff to achieve the goal of a degree was a great lesson in resilience and perseverance, two things that have worked their way into the core of my teaching philosophy.”

Homeschooling led to a different worldview, and this has informed his teaching. He questions why, when society has changed and grown dramatically in recent decades, “some teachers are still teaching in the same way that someone taught them years ago.”

“It’s made me realise that if you give someone enough time and the right support, you can help them become confident and succeed at almost anything.”

Tawhai taught guitar while finishing his music degree, and after some time working as a kitchen hand and then chef, he felt compelled to gain certification and return to teaching. He enjoyed teaching younger pupils guitar and says choosing primary instead of secondary was the “best choice ever”.

He says studying for his master’s during the COVID-19 pandemic presented its own set of challenges.

“I think because there were so many COVID restrictions, many students really valued our in-person class time. The logistics of dealing with 100-plus stressed-out adults must have been a nightmare for all the University staff. In the end, however, we graduated with a cohort of people who possess an enormous appreciation for education. I am grateful to be a part of such a supportive group of individuals.”

Tawhai’s goal as a teacher is to help the ākonga of Aotearoa New Zealand embrace their Māoritanga, to become the generation that speaks te reo at home and eventually pass that knowledge on to their own tamariki.

“I want to nurture students’ creativity, curiosity, imagination and uniqueness. To be a part of an academic world that values proficiency in the arts and cultural identity just as much as it values numeracy and literacy.”

His interest in music continues, and he performs in several musical acts around Dunedin. He also plans to get involved in school kapa haka and after school and lunchtime guitar club.

“Follow my musical haeranga on social media @ToughGuyNZ, stay in school, eat all your vegetables, and love your whānau. E mihi nui ana ki ōku mātua ko Jim rāua ko Jenny, tēnā kōrua, ki tōku tuahine Aisha, tēna koe. Ki tōku tuakana Jason, tēnā koe. Ki tōku teina Chris, tēnā koe. Ki tōku wahine toa Scarlett ka nui te mihi ki a koe mō tō tautoko i tērā tau. And to the MTchgLn class of 2022, I could not have asked for a better cohort to learn with and from. You are all amazing.”