Pasifika Kupe scholar’s passion for cultural diversity

20 September 2019

Salome Fa’aso’o was one of two University of Canterbury (UC) Bachelor of Teaching and Learning (Primary) students to receive Kupe Māori and Pacific High Achievers scholarships from the Honourable Kelvin Davis, Associate Minister of Education (Māori Education), at an award celebration at Parliament Buildings last night (Thursday 19 September).

  • Salome_Faasoo_NWS

    Salome Fa'aso'o, the Samoan mother of two is passionate about cultural diversity in education.

The 30 TeachNZ Kupe Scholars – chosen for their integrity, intellect, enthusiasm and excellent leadership potential – receive national recognition, course fees, a $15,000 study allowance and mentoring.

Tell us a bit about your background and how you came to be studying through UC?

I was born in Tāmaki-ma-kaurau (Auckland) but grew up in Whakatū (Nelson). My parents were both immigrants. My mother is from Brighton, England, and my father is from Falelima, Samoa, so my three siblings and I were the first of our family generation that were New Zealand born. My life has been influenced by both European and Samoan worldviews. I see this as my superpower!

I am a mother of two young boys, so deciding to go back into study was tricky, wondering how to juggle motherhood and study, and where I could access teacher training that was convenient to family life. Today I am so grateful for the opportunity I have had to enrol at UC. The fact that I could train at the Nelson campus meant that I could pursue my dream of becoming a teacher and remain in Nelson with my family, with all the perks of being on campus. It was a key decider for me. If it wasn’t for this option, I don’t think I would be where I am now. 

What do you hope to do with your qualification?

After dedicating time to raise my sons I started to look at new career options. I thought of the things that gave me the most joy and fulfilment and realised that it was helping my own children to succeed and grow with confidence in their identity. Throughout my learning journey I have become more aware of who I am, my Samoan heritage, and harnessing this has allowed me to achieve. It has given me a sense of pride of who I am; of wholeness, which raised my confidence in learning.

UC held strong cultural views in all their teacher education courses. So, my study at UC helped me to understand how I could promote cultural diversity in the classroom to raise student achievement.

My goal is to specialise in Culturally Responsive Pedagogy. I am excited about starting work in 2020. The school context I am working in promotes Culturally Responsive Pedagogy and is in the process of some great developments in this area. I am hoping in future to return to postgraduate study to further my knowledge in Culturally Responsive Pedagogy and research into areas that inquire into raising Pasifika achievement. 

What’s it like studying through UC?

I am proud to be a UC student. I value their promotion of our indigenous Māori culture and how they work to develop students’ value of te āo Māori [The Māori world]. I have had loads of support throughout my learning to help me get to an academic level where I could not only succeed but excel beyond my own expectations.

Connecting to the Pasifika Development Team was a great support. They were very encouraging, and their acknowledgements of my achievements helped me to push harder and keep going, though it was tough. My lecturers were very understanding. They really encouraged me to put my all into learning and gave me the right supports when I needed it. I really appreciate their value of my culture and experiences; it allowed me to have voice and be proud of it. UC has really reshaped my understanding of what university is all about. I believe university is for everyone and anyone can succeed in their passion here.

Why do you think you were chosen for the Kupe scholarship – what achievements or attitudes or skills made you stand out?

I think it was my attitude towards listening to the stories of others, valuing them, respecting them, learning from them and empathising with them. These are important skills as a leader and role model. But, also, I learnt to be open to sharing leadership and showing willingness to take on new ideas within that same process. I have also had to work very hard in my teacher education study, to make sure I can provide learners with quality and equitable learning experiences, so having good grades and deep understanding reflected my dedication to teaching and learning.

What would you say to Māori and Pasifika people considering becoming teachers?

I encourage more Pasifika and Māori people to take up teaching as a career. I think it is important that young Pasifika and Māori children see teachers who resemble their own cultures; who can relate to them; and who believe they have no limit on their potential. Also, to bring authentic cultural knowledge into schools. I have seen great changes over my time in schools over the last three years that show how education is shifting and Māori and Pasifika knowledge is essential to making these great shifts.

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