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EIT Te Pūkenga Tairāwhiti student set to graduate despite tough Cyclone Gabrielle year

March 6, 2024

Avril Keelan is looking forward to graduating at the EIT |Te Pūkenga Tairāwhiti Campus graduation ceremony at the War Memorial Theatre in Gisborne on Friday.

Despite Cyclone Gabrielle forcing Ruatoria-based Avril Keelan online to complete her degree through EIT | Te Pūkenga, she is now looking forward to graduating on Friday.

Avril (Ngāti Porou) is a teacher at Te Kura o Hiruharama in Ruatoria, who finished her Bachelor of Arts (Maori) from EIT | Te Pūkenga Tairāwhiti last year. She is set to graduate at the War Memorial Theatre in Gisborne on Friday.

The original plan was for Avril to travel down to complete the programme at the Tairāwhiti Campus, but Cyclones Hale and Gabrielle, which wreaked havoc in the region, put paid to that. While her property was not damaged, there was devastation around her.

“When the cyclones kicked in last year, major damage was done to the roads, so it was pretty hard to get into Gisborne, so my learning was done online.”

Because of her experience with Māori culture and her proficiency in te reo, Avril was fast-tracked into the third year of the programme last year. She had also done a degree in billigual teaching a number of years ago.

Forty-eight year old Avril, who was born in Invercargill, has lived in Tairāwhiti for many years.

She says that it is never too late for someone to study further and that’s why she decided to take a sabbatical from teaching to enrol at EIT | Te Pūkenga.

“It was the right time in my life. I’d been teaching for 15 years. I was exhausted.  But then, the opportunity arose and  I was lucky enough to receive a Teaching study award from TeachNZ last year. The course that I was doing would enhance my skills for school.  So it worked out really well.”

“It was a blessing. And now I’m back at school and my batteries are recharged and I’ve got so much to give everybody now.”

She says that what she enjoyed most about studying was being around “like-minded people”.

“Our tutors were really professional, but yet they had really good relationships with everybody. So they always made us feel really good and comfortable, and always very supportive.”

“I was also able to enhance my technology skills, because through our classes we had to use different multimedia and interactive learning.”

She says that she was also able to learn at her own pace.

One of the highlights for Avril was being able to research in depth the stories and histories of her hapu, Te Aitanga a Materoa.

“I knew a little bit, but not as much as I really thought. Having time to do thorough research was something I never had time to do previously.”

Avril says a key reason she was able to get through her degree was the support of husband Kapa Keelan, whanau, tutors Maria Wynyard and Angela Tibble and her classmates.

Angela Tibble, Programme Co-ordinator and Lecturer at Te Whatukura, EIT | Te Pūkenga Tairāwhiti, said: “It is an honour to be able to offer teachers from the coast, professionals alike that wish to improve their reo, tikanga and local history knowledge here at Te Whatukura. Avril thrived in this learning environment and we are glad to know she is taking the skills learnt here back into her classroom.”