Swati Gulati

Science Teacher, Melville High School - Hamilton

Key Info

  • Master of Education
  • Education
  • Summer Research Scholarship

Teaching comes naturally to Swati Gulati - not surprising given she comes from a family of teachers.

Swati is from Haryana in north India and came to the University of Waikato as an international student in February 2020, graduating with a Master of Education last year.

The 32-year-old now teaches science at Melville High School in Hamilton.

At home in India, she was always good at sciences and loved the study of space exploration, dreaming of one day being an astronaut.

Swati went on to graduate with a Bachelor of Engineering double degree in India, and then followed in the family tradition by qualifying as a teacher.

When she searched the world for the best university to do her master’s study, Waikato kept getting top reviews.

Even though she was actively looking in Australia and got an offer letter from a university in London, the pull towards the University of Waikato was strong.

Her cousin, who studied at Waikato, convinced her it was the best option.

Within weeks of her arrival so too did Covid. In lockdown she had family support in the form of other cousins who lived in Hamilton.

Lecturers were also supportive and responsive.

“I really appreciated the way the University transitioned to online teaching,” says Swati. “Our lecturers were nice, kind and helpful, not just related to my studies - but they genuinely cared about how I was [coping] in a new country during a lockdown.”

She singles out her master’s supervisor Dr Donella Cobb who guided her through the course and remains a mentor even now.

Swati struggled initially with writing assignments using APA referencing, something very new to her.

She also learned to prioritise her mental health, supported by lecturers who encouraged her to take rest days.

Living so far away from home was a challenge, but she became more independent.

“I managed my time, prioritised, balanced multiple deadlines and had a part-time job. I learnt to design my own life and routine while studying.”

Swati volunteered at Melville High School last year for eight months as a reading tutor and worked at Hillcrest High School as a teaching assistant for students from refugee backgrounds.

During the summer she completed a Summer Research Scholarship conducting research to develop an annotated bibliography in the fields of indigenous technology practice, computational thinking for children in Years 1-4 at school and the role of talk in computational thinking.

She was also part of a team discussion to scope the pilot study and drafted an ethics application for the project focused on the technological needs and practices of Māori learners.

Swati originally planned to continue her studies by going for a PhD at Waikato but then a full-time job as classroom teacher of science at Melville High School came up.

She encourages students thinking of studying at Waikato to dream big and reach for the stars.

“Don’t be afraid to set up high academic and professional goals, believe in yourself, and listen to that little voice within you that says ‘I can do this’.”

Photo: Simone Ishinabe, Melville High School.

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