Our Chair Barbara Ala'Alatoa's Speech to Prize Winners from Victoria University’s initial teacher education graduands

Tēna koutou katoa i runga i ngā tuāhuatanga o te wā.

Emihi ana ki a, Te Atiawa te kaipupuri o te mana whenua o tēnei rohe.

Emihi ana ki a tātou e hui nei.

Tēna koutou katoa.

Professor Jennifer Windsor, the Pro Vice-Chancellor of the Faculties of Education and Humanities and Social Services; the Dean, David Crabbe; distinguished guests; wonderful  graduands – Welcome!

What an absolute privilege it is to address you here this evening – and when I say privilege I mean it.

My father came to NZ from Samoa in the late 1950s. He was incredibly ambitious for all of my six brothers and sisters.

To guide us towards these ambitions he would often line us up and get us to say our name, age, and the job occupation we would do when we grew up. We were allocated the role of doctor, lawyer, solicitor, barrister etc.

All roles were in the legal and medical profession. In his mind, these were the professions of merit and status.

Education never warranted a mention – he never saw education as being on par with other professions. I loved my father but in this instance he was wrong!

The education profession is the place, the space where lives can be changed and transformed. Our profession knows that a person’s history does not have to be their destiny. In my own school, we have children who have every imaginable challenge before them. As a staff of professionals, we commit to our greatest sphere of influence; that is, the time that they are with us.

We know that when we know our learners and then work collegially, and when we are informed by the best research and are contemporary in our pedagogical practice, and when we are truly reflective and committed to being learners forever, our students will not only achieve, they will thrive.

Graduands, you are being acknowledged today because even at this early stage of your career you not only know these truths but you have demonstrated these qualities of what it means to be a truly great teacher. It is you that will see that the status of our magnificent profession is recognised by our communities and society. It is you that will make profound differences in the lives of the students you teach and their whānau.

Graduands, you are amazing and you are entering the profession at an amazing time. I know this because we have at our fingertips the best research in the world to inform our practice. We don’t need to guess or wonder. We now have our own independent professional body, the Education Council which, in the words of the Minister of Education, is a body ‘unfettered from any organisational or government representation – a freedom to be prized and honoured. We are entering into an environment  where we are looking to collaborate with each other in the way we have never done before – a way that will see people like myself not concerned just with the 500 students within our school gates but concerned with and working for the 3500 students in our local Mt Wellington community.

You also get to work with the best curricula in the world. They are curricula that invite us to excite and enthrall our children by designing learning about them and what makes them tick.

And if that wasn’t enough we even have the glamorous Prime Ministerial Awards which celebrate and acknowledge the very best in our profession – about time!

I want to end by saying that we often admire the astronauts who land space-craft on other planets, surgeons who perform incredible operations, QCs who deliver articulate and cogent arguments – and so we should. But equally, I would add that the privilege of observing an effective teacher as they prompt and scaffold student learning because they are knowledgeable about content, curriculums, pedagogy and the learner – is to observe a thing of beauty. It is on par with any champions of other professions.

Graduands – it is truly all before you.

Be ambitious for your profession.

Be ambitious for yourselves.

Be ambitious for your students for whom it is a privilege to teach and learn alongside every single day!

Welcome, welcome, welcome to the profession.

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