Tori Putere Lauvao-Araia Iosefo is hoping that her degree from EIT will unlock her dream of inspiring young Pasifika children as a teacher.
The 26-year-old is no stranger to the classroom, having worked as a teacher aide at Flaxmere Primary School for the past four years but recently enrolled in the Bachelor of Teaching (Primary) in a bid to take it to the next level.
“I got pushed a lot by my aunties who are teachers and it kind of went from there,” she says.
“I decided that I wanted to have a degree and be a role model and someone for my daughter and husband.”
Studying at EIT was a natural choice, given its proximity and the positive feedback she had heard about the programme.
“I’m enjoying the learning. I think it’s definitely a step up and it is challenging sometimes with all the work that goes into it, but I’m enjoying it.”
Initially, Tori was worried she had been out of studying for too long.
“I was just worried that it had been too long of a gap, and I had forgotten everything so it kind of took a lot of risk-taking. But I seem to be doing okay.”
Like her journey into studying, becoming a teacher aide was not originally something she had planned.
As a new mum and a talented rugby player, she had been looking for a job that fit around her training schedule and was close to home.
“It was a job that suited everything for me, but I just noticed that once I stayed on, the passion grew. I just started enjoying the kids, especially the Pasifika kids, and seeing where I can help them and what I had to give to the school.”
As a second-generation New Zealand – Pacific Islander, Tori knows the importance of acknowledging her culture and having role models. Her mum’s side is Samoan, while her dad’s side of the family is from the Cook Islands.
“As a teacher aide, the kids that I’ve had experience with may struggle with language barriers or self-esteem and feeling out of place so I just try and show them that they can be themselves and do anything.”
Tori is the first among her siblings and immediate family to have gone to tertiary education.
“Studying was never in my plan after school but just getting the push from other people and knowing that if you work hard and sacrifice for a few years you can benefit in the long term.”
She is one of 30 people around the country to have received the Kupe Scholarship from TeachNZ, which awards Māori and Pasifika high achievers $15,000 over the duration of their study.
While she is still working as a teacher aide one day a week, she says the scholarship is allowing her to focus on her studies.
The level of support provided by EIT has also been “amazing”.
“I’m just enjoying that I have all the support. The lecturers and learning advisors have been so helpful. They’re all approachable and really want us to do well.”
She recommends anyone, particularly those in a similar situation to her, to study at EIT.
“As much as I loved being a teacher aide, and I loved it so much, I think I just wanted to support my family more financially, and I think I just have so much more to give as a teacher and for my Pasifika people.”