No holding her back

10 May 2017


Tayla Blanchard

Tayla Blanchard is no stranger to graduation days. She already has a Certificate in Fitness from the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic (now Toi Ohomai), and a Bachelor of Sport and Recreation from AUT. But when she attends graduation number three today to accept her Graduate Diploma in Teaching (Secondary) from the University of Waikato, it will be a special one. Tayla has wanted to be a teacher for as long as she can remember.

As her Tayla accepts her diploma today, she will be wearing the whānau korowai. The 23-year-old, of Ngāti Tūwharetoa descent, is the youngest of six girls but add to that one half-sister, three half-brothers and five step-brothers.

But it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for the former Mount Maunganui College student. Born with a webbed hand that required corrective surgery when she was just days old, it left her right hand smaller than the other. The natural sportswoman says it didn’t hold her back and she was determined to work harder to achieve. She was named Year 13 Head Girl Kaupapa Māori, and offered many scholarships in her final year. She feels her experiences only increased her desire to teach.

There were more challenges ahead for Tayla. Playing representative netball for the Bay of Plenty since she was 13, her delight at being selected for the Waikato/BOP U23 development squad in 2015, quickly turned to disappointment when, after the first season, she injured her knee and was benched. Thanks to her mum and nan nursing her, and study mates supplying lecture notes, Tayla managed to keep going and returned to uni on crutches, still feeling rough but determined not to fall behind.

After five years of full-time study, combined with coaching high school netball and working as a personal trainer, she accompanied her partner abroad when he was contracted to play rugby for Irish club, Munster.

Landing back in New Zealand only a couple of weeks ago, Tayla is living with her sister and her family who are her biggest supporters. Tayla now wants to get two years teaching under her belt so she can become registered. She is also keen to start coaching again.

“I want to be the kind of teacher students can come to and feel heard by. High school isn’t easy and I always want to keep my eyes and ears open to be aware of what’s going on and where and how I can help.”