Fa’asaulala Tagoilelagi-Leota was born in American Samoa and moved around the Pacific as she grew up, gaining her schooling in Samoa, Fiji and New Zealand.
She completed a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts (Hons) in Education in 1992 at the University of Auckland.
Fa'asaulala is passionate about children and their learning. She says there is a lot of research which proves that with a solid foundation in learning, children will grow up to become better contributors to this world.
Her doctoral thesis focuses on the special journey children experience as they leave Aoga Amata for bilingual primary school.
Her thesis Soso’o le fau i le fau; (join fau with a fau): Exploring what factors contribute to Samoan children’s cultural and language security as they move from the Aoga Amata to Samoan bilingual primary classrooms in Aotearoa New Zealand establishes what fau is, in terms of culture and language security.
The fau is a robust rope from the fau tree, with connotations and links to quality. Fa'asaulala's research explores how this is being taught and reinforced in Aoga Amata, and how it is practiced and carried across to the Samoan bilingual primary classes. She says the Samoan language and culture is pivotal to the strength of the fau.
Fa'asaulala is following a group of children from Aoga Amata or Samoan ECE immersion centres through to Samoan bilingual primary school classrooms to identify what the fau may be comprised of.
Fa'asaulala is the national president of SAASIA (Sosaiete Aoga Amata Samoa I Aotearoa). She is very proud of the text the organisation has published, O Pelega o Fanau (Treasuring Children). It has become a prescribed reading for some ECE programmes and is widely distributed with requests for the text internationally.
“It’s an indigenous reference. We wanted to leave something for the future students of Pacific ECE to quote from,” says Fa'asaulala.