Graduation at the University of Waikato was an emotionally tinged celebration for Tim and Maggie Pauro.
Te Kohinga Mārama Marae is where the couple from Whanganui River were welcomed to the University when they began their journey three years ago, and it’s where they finished when they graduated last week (December 14) with a Bachelor of Teaching (Primary – Mixed Media Presentation (MMP)). The couple were joined by five of their six children, but the capping was a bittersweet reminder that two of their biggest supporters, Tim’s mum Shona and Maggie’s nan Doreen, weren’t there. Sadly, both kuia passed away last year.
It was a big call for Tim and Maggie to embark on tertiary study in the first place, especially together. They opted for Waikato’s distance learning teaching programme as it allowed them to study from home, juggling family commitments and working part-time where they could. The beauty of the MMP programme meant the practicum component of a standard qualification was replaced with one day a week at a base school in their local area. Attending block courses on the University’s Hamilton campus provided an opportunity to attend classes, connect with their lecturers and form bonds with their peers.
Tim’s mum Shona stepped up to offer emotional support and encouragement to Tim and Maggie when they doubted themselves, and practical help to care for the children when their parents were studying. “To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have started without my mother-in-law backing us from the start,” says Maggie.
When Shona developed an aggressive brain tumour and passed away in their second year of study, the loss shook the whole family. Two months later nan Doreen, who was influential in Maggie’s upbringing, passed away too. Grief-stricken, Tim contemplated giving up his studies but his mum’s encouraging words echoed in his ears. “I still heard my mum asking from her hospital bed, ‘have you finished your work my son?’ I would lie and say yes, but I know it would’ve broken her heart if either Maggie or I gave up. She was so proud of us, same with Maggie’s nan. We miss them both.”
Helped by their kids and Maggie’s parents Jack and Huia, Tim and Maggie grieved together and motivated each other to finish their studies. It’s been like that since the day they met – traversing life’s path side by side. Maggie had worked in a freezing works as a packer and knife hand and lived all over the country before settling in Whanganui, where she met soulmate Tim who had recently returned from the army. “I fell in love with Maggie instantly,” says Tim. “She’s my best friend.”
They moved up the river to Rānana when Tim’s dad Pestall was diagnosed with terminal cancer, just in time for him to spend a couple of precious months with their newborn son, Marino. A few years and four kids later, Maggie found herself spending a lot of time at the local school volunteering as parent help so it was a natural progression for her to think about teaching as a career. Likewise, Tim says, as a parent he fell into teacher aiding but it took Aberfeldy School colleagues, Seletar Filo and her mum Anne Taputoto, to convince the couple they would make amazing teachers and should pursue a degree.
The next step was to apply to university and get qualified and, when it came to choosing the right one, Tim did his homework. He asked his contacts in the teaching community for recommendations. Waikato’s name kept popping up. After trawling through the Waikato website they discovered the MMP programme. “It seemed the perfect fit as it could be shaped into an already busy schedule,” says Tim. After telling the school their intentions the pair turned up the next day surprised to find two sets of forms already printed out, with references filled in.
Three years, many hurdles and much heartache later, Tim and Maggie are humble about graduating but proud of the example their determination has set for their kids. “One of the biggest positives of our training has been the roll-on effect it’s had on our children,” says Tim. “I am the first of my immediate family to attend university, same for Maggie, and now all of our children are talking about going to uni and entering professional realms. That is the most rewarding outcome for me.”
Reflecting on the journey, Tim says the highlight of his MMP studies were the people he met. “Sharing, learning from and with, passionate lecturers, supportive staff and a diverse cohort always kept things interesting.” Maggie believes choosing to study the way they did brought her and Tim even closer. She is grateful for the knowledge gained and friendships made: “I think our cohort were quite tight from day one and we all had one purpose in mind and that was to finish together. It's been mind-blowing,” she says.
Just days before they arrived in Hamilton for graduation, the couple were thrilled to secure full-time teaching roles for next year. Tim will join the Health and Physical Education faculty at Whanganui High School while Maggie will teach year 3-4 at Upokongaro School. On graduation day they were joined by son Marino (14), daughters Hinekura (13), Moana (11) and Tiari, (10) and youngest son Te Rangihaeata (8), and Tim’s eldest son Tomokiterangi in spirit – he’s a chef and had to work. Maggie and Tim acknowledge the University of Waikato may see more of the Pauro whānau again in the future. “What better way to introduce our kids to university than bringing them to our graduation?” Maggie says.