Breadcrumbs

Cherishing cultural identity

21 August 2018

Arlenna Porteners with Associate Education Minister Kelvin Davis and Pacific panellists Leautuli’ilagi Sauvao (left) and Andrew Perez (far left). Photo credit: Lance Lawson

University of Waikato Tauranga Bachelor of Teaching student Arlenna Porteners has been awarded a 2018 Kupe Scholarship from TeachNZ worth $25,000 to assist her university study.

Arlenna can thank her secondary school, for all the wrong reasons, for opening her eyes to the importance of cherishing one’s cultural identity. The school did not have or encourage any cultural values or identity and Arlenna says that as a result she did not form any strong connections with peers or teachers. “I was just one of five students who identified as Māori or Pasifika and I constantly felt like I was on the outside looking in,” she says.

It was this experience that fuelled Arlenna’s desire to become a teacher, and this month she was awarded a 2018 Kupe Scholarship from TeachNZ worth $25,000 to assist her university study. The scholarship is awarded annually by the Ministry of Education to teachers of Māori or Pasifika descent who have ‘the ability to lead and motivate (and) display qualities of mana, adaptability, perseverance and courage’.

Arlenna says she considers the cultural, economic, generational and learning differences of each and every student. “This is the stuff on which meaningful and authentic relationships are built that are critical for learning to occur. These relationships are founded on the basis of respect, inclusion, communication and acknowledging where people have come from and who they are as individuals,” she says.

Arlenna goes on to describe a home life which was also at odds with her peers. “We didn’t have money for fancy lunches or expensive shoes,” she says. ‘While I had a very supportive mother, some of my experiences were quite different from others at the school and I found it incredibly hard to engage in school work and develop any sense of identity.”

Her experience and her passion for reform formed part of her successful scholarship application. She’s thrilled to have been awarded the scholarship, presented to her at Parliament on 16 August.

“To have the passion and vision I have as a teacher affirmed and recognised is a humbling experience,” she says. “More than that though, this process has been a wonderful way to show my own children that they can be proud of their culture and they can see themselves as successful learners.”

Tauranga Faculty of Education senior lecturer Barb Whyte says Arlenna’s scholarship success was well deserved. “She’ll be an asset to the teaching profession. She’s been an outstanding Bachelor of Teaching student teacher, both academically and pragmatically. She’s a busy family person with bountiful energy and drive who’s maintained strong academic grades alongside excellent reports for all her placement experiences in schools. Similarly, her cultural contribution to Pasifika events within the Tauranga education community has been admirable.”

As she graduates at the end of this year and starts to apply for teaching positions, Arlenna knows what sort of classroom she will lead. “My classroom will be a place where students can take risks, use their initiative, reach for the stars, be okay with failure and learn from their mistakes, while cherishing each other’s culture and individuality,” she says.


Latest stories

Related stories

Matariki stargazing in Hamilton

Celebrating Matariki at Waikato

The University of Waikato has celebrated Matariki with a number of public and staff events…

Anchal Sharma

Student leaders get a head start on University

Year 13 students from across the Waikato and Bay of Plenty came together last week…

Queen’s Birthday Honours 2022

University of Waikato Vice-Chancellor, Professor Neil Quigley, is pleased to share that Professor Ian Hawes,…

Blue/Green Tech Lab opens in Tauranga

Tech week – New Zealand’s festival of technology and innovation – kicked off in Tauranga…

Annette Tofaeono

Alumna passionate about education

University of Waikato alumna, Annette Tofaeono’s expertise is in adult literacy, with a strong focus…

Evaluating the morality of actions found to be culturally universal

Do people from distinct cultural groups use similar strategies when faced with moral judgements?

Inaugural Images of Research exhibition launches

An exhibition that showcases and celebrates the “depth and breadth” of educational research at the…

Disapproving of corruption doesn’t prevent corrupt behaviour

At a cost of around US$2.6 trillion per year, or 5% of global GDP, corruption…

Wayne Mills

For the love of books

Wayne Mills MNZM travels the world asking children questions about books and rewarding them for…

Psychologists urged to do more on climate change

Psychologists should be doing more to mitigate the health effects of climate change, according to…

Tahu Kukutai and Margaret Carr

Waikato researchers recognised as Royal Society Te Apārangi Fellows

Two University of Waikato Professors have been named Fellows to the Academy of the Royal…

Artemis Scholarship supports two worthy students

This year’s Artemis Foundation Scholarship has gone to two recipients; teaching student Lauren Dexter and…