Kaiako, Te Uho o te Nikau Primary School
Bachelor of Education (Primary Teaching)
Justine Kura Tuhaka has always enjoyed working with children. A wife of 25 years and a proud mother of five, she came to AUT to study a Bachelor of Education (Primary Teaching) and now works as a kaiako at Te Uho o te Nikau Primary School.
“I realised that I had been working in the education sector for 14 years, including kōhanga reo, and being a teacher aide and a learning assistant. I love working with children, so I decided to go back and study to make it official.
“As a teacher, a highlight and daily reward for me is when I can see in a child's eyes that I’ve helped them and have made something make sense to them.”
Supported to thrive
Having graduated from AUT in mid-2021, Justine still has fond memories of her time at university.
“I loved the whānau feeling that presented itself to me on my first day at AUT. The staff were awesome and understanding of situations that real life often throws at you. Because I have five children, I had a few of those moments but my lecturers were very empathetic.
“All of my lecturers were great but Dr Tafili Utumapu-McBride in particular was my saving grace. She was always encouraging me to carry on and push through any barriers that were there. She believed in me when I didn’t even always believe in myself. Ko ia he wahine tino koi, tino humārie hoki!”
She wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the Bachelor of Education to other students.
“Doing this programme opened my eyes to so much more than what I had initially expected. It made me confront some issues inside of myself that I hadn’t recognised were even present in not just my life but in the mindsets I carried too.”
Advice for other students
Justine has some great advice for other students who are considering taking up teacher training.
“Embrace this journey. See the benefits pay off from your years of study, and be the teacher your students want to grow up and be like! Believe in yourself, push through the pain, don’t leave things to the last minute, take time for you and your family, and breathe.
“My husband has also said to me a few times, ‘When the lecturer states recommended readings it’s probably best to actually read them!’”
There’s a particular quote she has been inspired by.
“For me this quote always rings true in the back of my head, ‘Children don’t care what you know, until they know that you care’. You can learn everything that comes from your lecturers but if you don’t have a heart for our tamariki, for their learning, for their health and their wellbeing, then you’re in the wrong profession.”