Two mothers, 12 children and university study

25 September 2017

Charlotte Hartley for web

Charlotte Hartley (centre) with her sisters Eliza Fraser and Laura McArthur, and her daughter Alani Hartley.

Two mothers with six children each are top adult learners at the University of Waikato. Charlotte Hartley and Marcelle Messenger are both studying for a Bachelor of Teaching, but one travels to the University of Waikato’s Tauranga campus each day and the other does most of her learning online.

They were awarded 2017 Vice-Chancellor Adult Learner Awards this month, given to mature students who consistently achieve high grades and who also participate in community and/or university activities.

Marcelle lives in Inglewood, Taranaki and is studying to be a primary school teacher. On the university’s Mixed Media Programme (MMP) she completes her lectures online, does her practicums in the Taranaki region and comes to the Hamilton campus for block courses three times a year.

She was a stay-at-home mother who started teaching te reo Māori part time at local primary schools which led to teaching basic te reo Māori and kapa haka in those local primary schools and two high schools. “This was the driving force to become qualified as a primary school teacher,” Marcelle says.

But it hasn’t been easy juggling family life with study. Luckily, the community that Marcelle has helped out over the years has been supportive of her. “My partner suffered a massive head trauma in July last year and has not been able to work since. I had to put my teaching degree on hold for six months in order to stay at home and be his main carer.”

Their ACC claim was denied and since the beginning of this year, when Marcelle picked up her study again, the family has lived off a student allowance ($411 a week). “It’s been a battle, but we have survived due to the generosity of our community, and I was determined to follow my dream and graduate, even though it’s going to take a year longer than I’d planned. Winning the adult learner award of $1000 will be a great help and allow me to come to Hamilton for on-campus sessions,” she says.

Charlotte Hartley is a second-year teaching student getting A grades most of the time and still finds time to work as a student ambassador at the University of Waikato in Tauranga.

Charlotte’s children range in age from 4 to 11. She is studying early childhood education, drawn to it after spending some time working unqualified in the profession. “I realised how much I enjoy walking alongside children as they discover the world and are given the tools to develop their love of learning. However, this experience also ignited a thirst to know how to better support these children on their journeys.

“I love to read and research, and I’ve become a critical thinker, able to consider issues from a range of perspectives,” she says.

She is also taking night classes at Te Wānanga O Aotearoa, which has opened her eyes to the richness of Te Ao Māori and her own bicultural development.

Her study is also making her reflect on her own parenting. “I have learned to look for the learning in their experiences and celebrate the moments that tend to have a parent tearing their hair out. But perhaps more importantly than that, I have been able to demonstrate to my children that dreams can be reached with a bit of hard work, determination and passion.”

Charlotte says the best thing about studying as a mature student is the life experience she has behind her. “It influences how I study and defines the special interests that I have in early childhood education. The hardest thing is keeping up with all the ‘young’ students in my class. I have to consume a fair amount of caffeine to keep up with their energy levels!”