Getting to know Teariki
Cook Island Māori
PhD in Education
Tell us about your background and what brought you to UC.
I’m from South Auckland where I worked as a primary school teacher for six years. In 2016, I received a TeachNZ scholarship to get my Master’s Degree. Now I'm onto my PhD, specialising in Māori language revitalisation and culturally inclusive teaching.
What are you hoping to achieve with your PhD?
My main mission is to normalise the speaking of te reo in schools as well as the organisations and businesses around them. My goal is to do a PhD that has both practical and theoretical applications. That way I can do something useful for the community and add to the research base as well.
Is getting your PhD the experience expected?
It's been a bit of a rollercoaster actually! I’ve had to head home at various times due to health issues in my family. UC has been really supportive of my occasional sidesteps. There’s tons of support here, from Te Akatoki to the Māori and Pasifika Development Teams (now both known as Te Waka Pākākano) to the Academic Skills Centre. The lecturers are really well respected and give you good guidance. They genuinely want you to be your best.
How else have you been involved in uni life?
I started the Cook Islands Students Association, as I have both Māori and Cook Island heritage. It's all about creating a sense of belonging for students coming to UC. I’m also part of the Cornerstone Campus Church. It's good to balance study and play. You can't work, work, work all the time!
What are you proudest of achieving during your time at UC?
I've had the opportunity to do so many things. I've published five books, developed a website, haka, and waiata. Through the Centre for Entrepreneurship I've started a social enterprise called Aotearoa Rockstars. It's a website and programme that helps students and communities embrace the Māori language. It’s been exciting to have a chance to give back to the community as part of my degree.
Any words of wisdom to share with others?
Have an open mind and try new things, but stick with what makes you, you. UC is a really supportive place and studying here is a hugely enjoyable journey. So stay on your own pathway. There might be back and forths, sidesteps and missteps along the way, but the important thing is to never give up.