Michael Gibbon

Trading Taranaki’s mountain and coast for Tauranga’s has given teaching student Michael Gibbon a taste of independence without sacrificing the outdoorsy lifestyle he’s come to love.

Born in Kirkcaldy, Scotland, Michael’s family moved to the semi-rural town of Ōakura, just outside New Plymouth, before he turned four. With the beach at his doorstep and surrounded by natural reserves and ranges, Michael enjoyed an idyllic Kiwi childhood. The “incredible educators” he had throughout his schooling influenced his decision to pursue a career in Education.

When it came to choosing a university, Michael did his homework. The University of Waikato’s Bachelor of Teaching (Primary) came highly recommended by the mentor teachers from his year 13 Spotswood College gateway placement at Ōakura Primary.

He was fortunate to receive a ‘Ko Te Tangata’ School Leaver Scholarship that ensured some financial stability in his first year but says the deciding factor to choose Waikato was the practical component of the teaching programme - spending time in a classroom from the get-go.

“After comparing the courses around New Zealand, Waikato just stood out to me. The practicum component gets you in the classroom almost from day one of your studies. By the third year of the degree, it’s up to a full term in the classroom.”

Michael also craved a welcoming and inclusive student environment in a city where he could still connect with nature. The small, friendly Tauranga campus, located in the city yet close to Mount Maunganui beach, proved to be a perfect fit.

“I didn’t feel like just another cog in the works but a valued individual who wasn’t afraid to raise their hand and ask for help,” he says.

Admitting he was anxious about leaving home and starting university, Michael says the best decision he made was to throw himself in early by enrolling in the Jump Start summer programme. He smashed out a writing paper over four weeks, made new friends and got used to life on campus and a new city, all before A trimester began.

“Jump Start made the transition smooth and stress free, and really set me up for my first year of study,” he says.

It’s safe to say Michael is glad he chose Waikato University.

“The teaching degree is so much fun. I wake up every day, excited to go to class. Our lecturers and tutors make the mahi interesting and practical, something you really want to pay attention to.”

“I’ve made some life-long friendships and met some incredible people. Living in student accommodation has been a fantastic experience, allowing me to grow up and find my own feet in the world.”

Alongside his studies, Michael has instilled some good sports and wellbeing practices – taking part in social volleyball, getting along to the local squash club, and having a go at improv through one of the student clubs on campus.

He also dedicated time to teach himself guitar to “add a useful tool to [his] teaching kete”. Confident to strum and sing waiata with the kids, Michael says guitar has become a favourite hobby. Unsurprisingly then, his favourite paper so far has been EDART203, a summer school option implementing music into teaching practice.

In his second year of study, Michael took  on the role of Residential Leader (RL) in the new student accommodation, Selwyn Street Studios. He has enjoyed sharing his learnings of Tauranga and uni life to help settle new students.

“Essentially, along with the other RL’s, I’m there to ensure everyone is happy, safe and managing their studies. I believe the experience has given me skills that will be useful in my future career too.”

Once he’s completed his degree Michael plans to go back to teach in his home town to gain some experience before considering further study. Another aspiration is to teach kids in less fortunate parts of the world.

“The amazing thing about a teaching degree is, if you want it to, it’ll take you all over the world.”

Michael Gibbon

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