Teachers rewarded for stellar leadership

ISOBEL EWING
Last updated 05:00 16/11/2012

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Two Taranaki teachers have received national awards for excellence in teaching and leadership.

The recipients, two of only 10 around New Zealand are Aroaro Tamati, of Te Kopae Piripono, Taranaki's only Maori immersion early childhood centre, and the principal of Hawera's Tawhiti Primary School, Chris Riley.

At separate ceremonies yesterday the two women received leadership awards from the National Excellence in Teaching Awards and a grant of $2,500.

The Cognition Education Excellence in Leadership Award recognises a person who demonstrates leadership qualities that take education to a higher level, and embraces change.

Mrs Tamati said the award was special because it acknowledged the huge efforts she and her colleagues had put into Te Kopae to make it a success.

"Our leadership approach is not just individual leadership, it's about whanau. If I get recognised the whole whanau gets recognised.

"Parents matter, grandparents matter, kids matter. This is not about me."

She said the best thing about her work was seeing families and children grow and develop their Maori language.

"Eighteen years ago there was very little [Maori language] in Taranaki."

Although Te Kopae is registered as an early childhood centre, it has run hockey teams over the past six years so graduates can come back and play hockey.

"We maintain our connections that way; that's the whole point of it," Mrs Tamati said.

She said Te Kopae was focused on developing and rebuilding community that was lost.

"With the [land] confiscations of the century before last, all of the infrastructure of the community, social, cultural was basically lost, so it's been our privilege to rebuild that."

Under the leadership of Mrs Riley, Tawhiti School is a "Cool School" where physical, verbal and social bullying is unacceptable.

The judges said Mrs Riley provided an environment that allowed staff to realise their potential, and her leadership helped build relationships within school communities.

Mrs Tamati planned to use the grant for professional development for her team and to develop leadership across the whanau; Mrs Riley plans to undergo further training in restorative justice in schools.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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