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Student story

Toya Woodgate

20 July 2023

Kāi Tahu, Te Atiawa

"I want to figure out how I can support my iwi within the education sector..."


(Kāi Tahu, Te Atiawa)

Bachelor of Teaching and Learning (Primary)

Bachelor of Teaching and Learning with First Class Honours

Master of Education with an endorsement in Curriculum and Pedagogy

Primary School Teacher, Lincoln Primary School

Ever since childhood Toya has always wanted to be a teacher, and would love practicing giving homework and grades to her family when she was young.

As she now lives the dream with her teaching role at Lincoln Primary, Toya has come to understand how much impact she can have on the minds of her students. Her role involves working in a collaborative learning environment with multiple classes.

“My appreciation for year 2 and 3 students has grown immensely since I started teaching,” she says. “Their creativity, never ending questions and unknown appreciation to marvel over learning material has enabled me to produce a learning programme that supports juniors to think about critical issues, and have them confront challenges with the willingness to succeed in a calm and supportive environment.

“When I get them thinking about critical issues in the world this is where I get really excited, as I always wonder what they will take away from those lessons and how it will affect their future endeavours.”

Getting real world experience during study at primary schools was a huge help towards getting where she is today, and building her passion for teaching further.

“My placements prepared me immensely! The support my observing lecturers and associate teachers gave me was priceless. Their encouragement, feedback and continuous support even after I became provisionally registered has been invaluable.”

“Be prepared to be extended cognitively and emotionally. Always have an open mind, understand others viewpoints, stand up for what you believe is right, and most of all have fun.”

Toya found it easy to decide on UC for her Primary Teaching studies, enrolling with a UC Undergraduate Entrance Scholarship for her high school results. She also received an Emerging Leaders Development Programme Scholarship, which recognises students with leadership potential.

“During undergrad degree I was a part of the ELDP every year. The first year I took part in it as a scholarship recipient and also worked with a friend to create Big Day Out for Families which was held at UC, and we got great press for it too. In my second year I helped run the forum evenings for ELDP and in my third year I helped run the retreat.

“I was also a part of the Rotary Associates Programme and in my third year at UC I became a fully pledged Rotarian. However, at the end of last year I resigned from Rotary for the time being.”

Her involvement with campus life gave her a big appreciation of UC’s support services. During her studies, Toya made use of the Academic Skills Centre for assignments, and was also a Mentor, and a Tuakana student leader with the Māori Development Team.

“The Māori Development Team were really supportive, and made me think I was unstoppable. The Mentoring programme was also great to be a part of – I was able to mentor a student from Sweden and I learnt lots of people skills from this experience,” she says.

“I loved the support I received, whether it be from scholarships, ELDP, Māori Development Team and the lecturers. They all made my journey at UC seamless. The ELDP programme would definitely be what made my journey at UC so much fun. I have made lifelong friends through the programme and I extended myself to not only study, but mentor, volunteer and help run the programme.”

From these experiences, Toya decided to extend her cultural heritage into her teaching, where she currently supports the school’s kapa haka group and cultural initiatives. Toya’s Master of Education studies will give her more background in integrating tikanga Māori into New Zealand’s education.

“I want to figure out how I can support my iwi within the education sector, whether it be through research or in the classroom,” she says.

Outside of work and study, Toya is working on starting a waterfowl hunting business with her partner, and looking after their three dogs Flash, Monty and Teka.

“I enjoy hunting with my partner, we’re often out in the hills or on the river – we love the outdoors,” she says. “I am looking forward to the challenge of juggling all my “adult” responsibilities as well as study and continue my drive to be outdoors, as well as being the best possible teacher I can be.”

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