Tuesday, 25 February 2020

WHITIANGA WEATHER

New te ao Maori co-ordinator looking forward to exciting challenge

As schools across the Coromandel build on the cultural learning and connections that flourished during last year’s Tuia 250 commemorations, they will have the guidance of a new learning and support coordinator dedicated to this particular goal.

The job came about after the Coromandel Community of Learning was funded for three of the 600 new coordinator positions announced by the Ministry of Education last year. But instead of creating three general roles, the principals of the nine schools who form part of the collective, decided to recruit specifically for the particular needs of their learners and the community’s identified shared goals, including a te ao Maori learning coordinator in the form of Brandon Amoamo.

Brandon is excited about his new role, with a job description to be developed in the weeks ahead as he spends time getting to know staff and students in each of the nine schools within his care.

“Each school and community will have its own needs, so you cannot go in with some pre-prescribed manual on what you think they should be doing. It’s not up to me to tell anyone what to do, my job will be to support them with their journey, I am there to serve and to guide,” he says.

“For the first five weeks I will be meeting principals and possibly teachers as well to find out what it is they want to achieve. It is not about me, there is no room for ego in teaching, this is about individual kids and the opportunity we can give them, because that is all it is, an opportunity, it is up to them what they do with it.”

With whanau connections across Aotearoa, from the Eastern Bay of Plenty to New Plymouth, Brandon grew up in Invercargill and taught at several other schools before moving to Whitianga two years ago to take up a role at Mercury Bay Area School where he taught Maori performing arts as well as bilingual classes. He says the timing of the newly created role is ideal given the partnerships that were forged through Mercury Bay’s Tuia 250 Encounters which most of the schools he will be working with were part of. He even talks about building capacity across the Coromandel for Tuia 500 and says it’s not as big an aspiration as it might sound.

“What we did in the run up to Tuia 250 was awesome, but it was just a start, there is a still a long way to go and I’m excited by what is possible, it’s the beginning of the beginning,” he said. A fifth generation descendant of Ngati Hei, Brandon has a good working relationship with kaumatua, Joe Davis, and developing closer relationships with local iwi is also something he can support schools with.

Language support, kapa haka, the environment, New Zealand history and cultural connections within the wider community could all be part of Brandon’s job description, depending on the needs of each particular school. He is likely to be working extensively with other staff to build knowledge and capacity in terms of te ao Maori. Brandon says it is important to move from looking at te ao Maori as a stand alone subject to something that can be integrated into the broader learner experience. With a strong emphasis on identity and the inter-connectedness between people, he says it’s a learning approach that everyone can benefit from, not just Maori.

“When we talk about identity and the connections with where you come from, the importance of that is something that’s at the heart of all cultures. It sounds like a cliché but we are all on the same earth ship at the end of the day.”

Te Tara o te Ika a Maui – the Coromandel Community of Learning - consists of seven primary schools, Colville, Te Rerenga, Coroglen, Whenuakite, Tairua, Hikuai and Opoutere, as well as Coromandel Area School and Whangamata Area School. The collective also works closely with early childhood education centres throughout the area.

Pictured: Brandon Amoamo is the new te ao Maori learning support coordinator for the Coromandel Community of Learning.

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