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Teaching Award

Teena Henderson

16 February 2024

Meet Teena Henderson who has been described as the pou of UC's undergraduate programme in te reo Māori. Central to her teaching philosophy is whakawhanaungatanga (building and nurturing relationships with and between students) and helping students feel comfortable about sharing and supporting each other on their learning journeys.  


Teena Henderson (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Waewae) has been described as the pou of the undergraduate programme in te reo Māori at the University of Canterbury.

After beginning her teaching in secondary schools, Teena has taught at UC for more than a decade, primarily in foundational courses in te reo Māori, but also the Master of Māori and Indigenous Leadership and contributing to courses in the UC Business School, Faculty of Science, and Faculty of Education.  Central to her teaching philosophy is whakawhanaungatanga (building and nurturing relationships with and between students), helping students to feel comfortable sharing and supporting each other in their learning journeys.  She acknowledges that students cannot be dissociated from their extended whānau, whether they are secondary students enrolled through the STAR programme or parents who need to bring their children to class.  As one student writes, “[she] fostered a strong class hapori (community) which helped us to learn from each other.”

Additionally, Teena’s teaching philosophy emphasises that education is built on the reciprocal relationship between students and teachers, embodied in the te reo Māori concept of ‘ako’, which recognises that a teacher is also a learner.  She engages tirelessly in the iterative mahi of reflecting on her teaching and improving her courses, whether through best practice innovations to lift pass rates in the face of Covid-19, through the recent redevelopment of the te reo Māori curriculum at UC, through course development programmes such as Taipapaki, or through personal participation in kura reo.  As a second language learner of te reo Māori herself, she empathises with her students and tries to model a curiosity and lifelong passion for learning that engage them in her classes.  These efforts were recognised with a UC Arts Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2021.

Teena’s leadership also extends beyond the classroom and into the community, where she is engaged in research on hapū/school partnerships aimed at transforming schooling outcomes for Māori.  She also serves on the Ngāti Waewae Education Committee, helping to develop the education strategy, resource development, and engagement with schools within her hapū.  In the words of another student: “Hands down, Teena is one of the most amazing lecturers/educators that I have experienced at UC.  [She] works incredibly hard and has a generosity of spirit that is second to none.” 

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