Marion Marsters Dekker

Marion Marsters Dekker

Leaving high school with no formal qualifications, Marion Marsters Dekker didn’t think she would ever return to study, let alone graduate three times from university.

Marion Marsters Dekker

Marion, who has both Cook Islands and Dutch heritage, proudly earned her Master of Educational Leadership with First Class Honours from the University of Waikato in 2023. Her focus was on empowering leadership for Pacific learners.

It followed a Bachelor of Teaching (Professional Education) in 2013 and a Diploma of Teaching (formerly a Kindergarten Teaching Diploma) in 1989 at Waikato University.

“My master’s was the pinnacle of my educational journey,” says Marion, who is now working as a leader at Inspired Kindergartens in Tauranga. “I had the opportunity to research a subject I felt deeply connected to, supported by responsive and encouraging lecturers, all while sharing the journey with others.”

Growing up in Hillcrest, 400 metres from the Hamilton campus, Marion always felt a deep sense of belonging to the University of Waikato.

“It was my playground; I watched the construction of the Science block,” she recalls. “So, it was only natural that I chose Waikato as my place of study.”

Marion, 58, who left high school at 17, says she battled self-doubt and imposter syndrome for over four decades. But her experience at Waikato University helped dispel the negative rhetoric.

“For Pacific students, it can be especially challenging to re-engage with education if they haven’t experienced previous success. From an early age, that mindset can make it feel like it’s not your place.

“But at Waikato, I always felt my contributions were valued. My lecturers genuinely wanted me to achieve, and it was an incredibly empowering experience.”

During her time at Waikato, Marion actively participated in research projects, including The Ngahere Project and a three-year research project called Titiro Whakamuri, Hoki Whakamua: We are the future, the present and the past: Caring for self, others and the environment in early years’ teaching and learning. Recently, she supported a pilot study for Pacific picture books.

In her current role, Marion works as a Professional Lead within the senior leadership team and collaborates with kindergartners and home-based education services across the Bay of Plenty. Previously, Marion was head teacher at kindergartens in Tauranga.

Marion’s journey back into the education system began in 1990 when she joined the University Campus Creche.

Pam Banks, the creche lead from 1973 to 2002, recognised Marion’s potential and offered her a job.

“Pam set a safe and empowering learning environment and this is when I realised my love for early education.”

To students who may be grappling with their identity or experiencing self-doubt, Marion says “you are valuable and you are not an imposter. There are people out there who want you to succeed, surround yourself with them.”

Marion Marsters Dekker

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