Loata Tiapapa

Loata Tiapapa

Doctor of Education student
Postgraduate Diploma in Education
Master of Teaching and Learning

She has always wanted to do research tailored to addressing the needs of Pacific people, says Loata Tiapapa who completed a Master of Teaching and Learning and a Postgraduate Diploma in Education, and is currently studying a Doctor of Education.

“I chose the Doctor of Education to not only fill in the gap of representation for Pacific doctoral students but to also represent the village I come from. My grandfather Tuauri Kakoreau Hakaoro was a teacher and advocate for the Cook Islands association, my uncle William Hakaoro was the first ever graduate of the Master of Pacific Studies in New Zealand, and my parents Teleai and Matakeu Tiapapa are just a few Pacific pioneers in my own village who have paved the way forward for the realisation of my journey. The seed of potential to thrive was sown by the lineage of my tupuna.”

Because she felt that the loss of Pacific educators often goes unnoticed, she decided to explore ways to nurture and retain Pacific teachers.

“As a teacher who has watched the rhetoric of an underachieving Pacific learner being regurgitated in all spaces, the need to address this has been crucial to my career as a teacher and my vision of an education system that is equitable for all learners. Everyone knows of the underachievement of Pacific learners. However, little spotlight is held towards Pacific educators who contribute greatly to building an education system that caters to diverse Pacific learners. My Doctor of Education research seeks to understand why we’re seeing a decline in Pacific educators and unpack how to sustain, nurture and retain our teachers.

“If we want to invest in the achievement levels of our children, then the system needs to reflect our learners. I hope that my research helps to propose ways for schooling establishments to improve their systems to support the growth and sustain the longevity of the teaching careers of our Pacific teachers. I also hope that training establishments can use this research to educate teachers on building a system that’s more culturally responsive towards our children as well as our teachers.”

The key to go anywhere
Two of her Master of Teaching and Learning lecturers inspired her to take on doctoral study, Loata says.

“My lecturers Patsy and Jyoti met with our Master of Teaching and Learning cohort in 2019. I shared with them the struggles I faced as a Pacific teacher and how I sometimes feel powerless to influence change. When Patsy and Jyoti spoke of notions of research and how research can contribute to understanding the factors that influence change and ways of thinking, it piqued my interest. Both these ladies encouraged me to seek more, and I remember them saying a doctorate gives you a key to go anywhere.”

She enjoys challenging herself through doctoral study.

“I’m enjoying learning new concepts, frameworks and theories and even intellectually how I’m improving my vocabulary. I also enjoy the whole journey, as my lecturer is so supportive.”

Supported to thrive
Loata says she appreciates the support she has had from her lecturers throughout her postgraduate journey.

“My biggest challenge at AUT I suppose is myself – the whole imposter syndrome that I may not be good enough to stand at the point of a doctoral level. When I was considering doctoral study, my lecturers not only encouraged me to work towards becoming the new generation of academics, but they believed that I could do it. Had my lecturers not believed in my potential, I wouldn’t be standing here. During the whole process, I’ve had someone walk alongside me.”

She wouldn’t hesitate to recommend postgraduate study in education.

“I would definitely recommend the postgraduate education programmes to others. It will be difficult at times but the support of your village, with lecturers readily available and a cohort moving alongside with you, makes it attainable. The AUT staff are dedicated to allowing students to bring their kete into the classroom, and working collaboratively to move forward.”

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