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Fellowship winner a champion for native languages

Issue: Volume 95, Number 17

Posted: 19 September 2016
Reference #: 1H9d4c

A Tauranga early childhood education teacher with a passion for the Māori language is preparing to travel to Hawaii to see how the state is nurturing its native language.

Photo of Karine Te KanawaKarine Te Kanawa, from Ngāti Maniapoto and Tainui, is the winner of the 2016 Margaret M Blackwell Travel Fellowship.

Winning the fellowship means Karine, who is the team leader of the Tuakana Room at UrbanKids Tauranga, will spend six weeks visiting early childhood centres and schools to see what they are doing to preserve the native Hawaiian language.

She will visit full immersion Hawaiian language preschools, known as Pūnana Leo, and hopes to gain insights into self-review processes, learning and planning, and how the curriculum fits into the everyday life of the centres.

Karine also hopes to observe Hawaiian language immersion programmes in primary and secondary schools, and she would like to form a Pacific partnership for early childhood education centres.

“I want to learn from the centres and schools in Hawaii and hopefully be able to bring some of that knowledge back with me,” she says.

“There’s so much knowledge that can be shared between Aotearoa and Hawaii when it comes to protecting native languages."

“It’s really important to me. I’m a passionate advocate for te reo Māori me ona tikanga in all areas of my life, however particularly as a leader of the learning in education. It is essential to my identity being Māori, and importantly the identity of our nation.”

Some of Karine’s eagerness to protect te reo and foster it in others can be traced back to when she was a child.

“When I was growing up my grandmother rarely spoke the reo in front of us as children,” Karine says. “Having her first language robbed from her as a child had a significant impact on her, affecting how and when she would choose to use it. It hurts me to think about it, as she passed on those stories to me as a child. I feel the need to heal that hurt, past, present and future."

“In spite of this time, my grandmother was a staunch advocate for education. She knew its value and always said it would open many doors for the future. I now live by those words every day. As early childhood educators it is our job to nurture the seeds of our communities and create strong, confident, capable life-long learners for the 21st century.”

As well as working full-time at UrbanKids, Karine is studying towards her Master of Educational Leadership at Waikato University.

Karine says she first got into early childhood education 12 years ago when her son was at a childcare centre.

“I started out volunteering before becoming a reliever and eventually going full-time,” she says. “It was a place where I felt I fitted well and was able to grow and always learn. Tamariki teach me far more than what I will ever be able to teach them. That is the part I enjoy the most."

“My son is the reason I walked into this career. He was diagnosed as being mildly autistic at the age of four. Our journey together through early childhood education changed both of our lives for the better. I guess you could say it gave us a key.”

The highlight of Karine’s work is when she sees the children each day.

“Each day I am dedicated and committed to making a difference in the lives of those whom I am entrusted to teach. I see it as one of the greatest privileges in life, to be a kaitiaki of the tamariki."

“I want to be remembered as a kaiako who supports and inspires the tamariki to become their true authentic selves, creative and innovative learners, with a sound knowledge of their own identity, strongly built upon the bicultural heritage of Aotearoa.”

The Margaret M Blackwell Travel Fellowship is administered by the New Zealand Council of Educational Research (NZCER) on behalf of a trust.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 6:48 pm, 19 September 2016

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