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New EIT | Te Pūkenga art and design tutor encouraging students to create community connections

October 11, 2023

Steph Barnett is enjoying her new role as EIT | Te Pūkenga art and design tutor in Tairāwhiti.

Encouraging students (ākonga) to action their learning outside of the classroom is the focus of new EIT | Te Pūkenga art and design tutor, Steph Barnett.

Steph, who describes herself as a “creative from day dot”, has recently joined the IDEAschool team in Tairāwhiti to teach the New Zealand Certificate in Arts and Design (Level 3 and 4) programmes.

She brings with her a personal creative practice as well as experience as an educator, including in trauma-informed education. She is now focused on giving her akonga every opportunity to develop their skills and creativity.

“I’ve always loved art. My earliest happy memories are of creating. I’ve been varied in my creative and professional practice. I would definitely say that I like new challenges, and I really like cross-disciplinary practices.”

“One of the reasons why this role specifically appealed to me was that it is wide ranging. It’s printmaking, fashion design, graphic design, photography, and fine art. Those are all things that I get excited about, and it’s a bit of a taster for emerging creatives, to find out what is working for them, before they decide to go down one path.”

She says it is important for tutors to link what they are teaching in the classroom to the wider creative world.

“We need to be creating community connections and enabling our ākonga to see themselves outside of the classroom.”

Steph has a diverse background with her work in trauma-informed education and learning te reo Māori in a full-immersion course at Te Wānanga o Raukawa.

“Trauma-informed education is another passion of mine. It is around positive social change, community change, and definitely a huge part of my teaching ethos is recognising everyone’s potential to grow and to develop. The learning pathway looks different for different people.”

“The full immersion year was super impactful for me. It really shifted my perspective. I gained a much deeper appreciation for te ao Māori, and how powerful an indigenous perspective is. I think that a Māori lens on our global issues right now holds potential for healing and regenerative practice for our whole world. Especially in relation to climate change, wealth inequality and our relationship with technology and AI” 

As for her personal artistic practice, Steph is currently working towards having her own exhibition.

“It is centred around the female experience, and in particular looks at female cycles, like our menstruation, and then how that relates to our environmental and social context.”

“I celebrate growth in my work, this comes through in native plants and flowers of Aotearoa present in most of my work.”

Steph says she is loving her new position and credits her colleagues for supporting her and ākonga for being passionate about creativity.

“They are just so wonderful. They’re so supportive of each other, and they’re very impressive artists already. I feel like I’m learning so much from them.”

“They are comfortable with experimenting, pushing different ideas, dreaming big, and really aiming for a high standard in their work. They are also really open to trying new opportunities and saying yes.”

The Acting Head of IDEAschool, Sue Blackmore, said: “IDEAschool welcomes Steph to the team. She is a fantastic asset to EIT | Te Pūkenga, bringing with her a wealth of experience and strong relationships within the Tairāwhiti creative community.”