Teacher happy to return to ‘tough gig’

A former teacher has returned to Dunedin’s Arai Te Uru Kōkiri Training Centre — this time as its tumuaki (principal).

Raewyn Nafatali remembers her time as the alternative-education teacher at the South Dunedin centre as a "tough gig", but said she was happy to return.

Although she was still in the early stages of the role, she said she was pleased with how things were going and the support she was receiving.

"We have a board that are willing to take chances and are willing to make some really innovative changes."

Mrs Nafatali said one of her goals was creating stronger pathways for students to move on from Kōkiri.

"For a lot of our tauira [students], this is their second chance at learning and once you find that place where you belong and can learn, it’s quite hard to leave.

"So what else can we offer to build that confidence to move away from Kōkiri?"

She believed the growth of Kōkiri was about partnership, Mrs Nafatali said.

"Nothing is a barrier, everything is a conversation.

"Come and learn about us and we’ll learn about you and maybe there’s a partnership in the making."

She initially moved to Dunedin 30 years ago to train at the College of Education.

She later was put on a placement with Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Otepoti and Kōkiri.

"I loved my placement there.

"Being new to Dunedin and being able to be immersed with my people, it was awesome."

She was alternative-education teacher at Kōkiri for a few years.

"It was a tough gig, but you love the people you work with and become so close with those tauira."

For 12 years, Mrs Nafatali worked in co-design and social innovation before taking up a role as manager of the Mana Ake programme.

The programme involved Mrs Nafatali travelling to 142 schools to speak on mental health support in schools.

"At the time, Kōkiri was doing a reset, looking at what their future direction might be, so I thought it was a good time to come on board."

Mrs Nafatali said Kōkiri was one of those places people would always come back to.

"That’s what Kōkiri does to you — you have a foot in and it never leaves."

Due to her deep passion for her people and the community, the role did not feel like a heavy weight, she said.

"I just hope I can do well because there are a lot of people that believe in me and depend on me and I hope I can stand up to that, their expectations and my own."