Primary School Teacher, Kauri Flats School
Bachelor of Education (Primary Pasifika Teaching)
He first realised that he loved working with young people when he started coaching basketball in Year 13, says AUT education alumnus Nick Mailau.
“It felt incredibly rewarding to see the players learn and perform moves that I had taught them, and it was then that the idea of becoming a teacher was planted in my head. After a few years of working in retail and as a teacher aide in a special education classroom, and a lot more basketball coaching, I decided to pursue a Bachelor of Education at AUT.”
Since graduating from AUT in 2020, he now enjoys applying his skills as a teacher at Kauri Flats School.
“I’m now in my second year of teaching intermediate at Kauri Flats School after teaching the Year 5 and 6 class last year. I’m in a modern learning environment set-up, which is great as AUT set me up well for it. There’s a strong Pacific and Māori presence at the school and specialising in Pasifika education has prepared me well for that. I’m loving teaching!”
The road to becoming a teacher
The Bachelor of Education equipped him with the tools to become a teacher in Aotearoa, Nick says.
“I would definitely recommend the education degree to anyone who has even the smallest inkling of working with children. The chance to go on a teaching practicum every semester, experiencing a range of different schools really appealed to me. Over the course of my degree, I went to five different schools, all of which taught me a variety of skills and exposed me to a range of teaching styles.”
As a proud Tongan, Nick also appreciated being able to specialise in Pasifika education as part of his degree.
“The content of the papers I studied has always been very inclusive of all types of learners in New Zealand schools. Being able to specialise in Pasifika education in my third year was very beneficial for me. As someone from a Tongan background, it’s important that I understand the role I have to play as a teacher of Pacific students in Aotearoa.”
Throughout his time at university, he also had plenty of opportunities to grow and develop new skills, including joining the policy team at the Ministry of Education in Wellington through the Tupu Tai Policy Internship programme, and being chosen to be an Aotearoa Youth Leader for the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO.
Advice for other students
The best thing you can do is to ask for help, Nick advises other students.
“In my experience, the people in the School of Education at AUT will almost always find a way to help you in any way they can. For example, there was a stretch in my second year when I was questioning if teaching was really what I wanted to do. A couple of my lecturers, Tafili Utumapu-McBride and Martha McFaul, were instrumental in helping me turn the corner. They showed how passionate they were about the profession, particularly in working with Pacific students, and it motivated me to get my act together again.”
He is grateful for the support he received throughout his time at AUT.
“While studying I was also working and coaching at the same time, and there were times when these things clashed. During nearly every teaching practicum throughout my studies, I had to take a few days or a week off to coach at a tournament. I’m grateful that my lecturers supported me during these rather than making me pick one or the other.”