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Renee Campbell

Renee (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Awa) teaches pūtaiao and pāngarau at the Wharekura (Secondary School) of Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ngā Mokopuna in Wellington.

Renee CampbellWhat do you do on an average work day?

I am incredibly fortunate to work alongside my favourite kaipūtaiao (scientists) and kaipāngarau (mathematicians), and to teach within a space that still continues to excite and feed my soul – ‘He oranga ngākau, he pikinga wairua’.

What did you study at school? And after high school? 

I studied the core subjects as well as physics and biology – little did I know that many years later I would end up teaching in these areas! 

I then went on to Teachers Training College to become a Primary teacher and also attended Victoria University of Wellington, graduating with a Masters in Education.

Was your study directly related to what you do now?

From the ripe age of ten I knew I wanted to be a teacher. 

I didn’t have the confidence or the language competency to teach in te reo Māori, but in my first year of teaching I was guided into Māori medium education and I haven’t looked back since!  

I also never thought about teaching at secondary level either because learning is much more specialised.  However, this will be my fifth year of teaching at wharekura level and it has proven to be hugely rewarding, bringing me enormous happiness.

Renee with her students, who are holding river sampling nets

What would you like to share with young women who are thinking about their career choices right now? 

Allow your passion to become your purpose and one day it will become your profession!

What are some of your career highlights so far? 

This is our first year Pūtaiao is being taught to NCEA level two – mostly in te reo Māori, with the view of continuing on to NCEA level three next year. 

Our kura is also currently in the process of crafting our own curriculum as well as trialling one main kaupapa – ‘Te Kura Moana’ for the year which is the main focus across all levels. This has meant a lot more cross-curricular teaching across senior secondary subjects and selecting assessments that fit the kaupapa – rather than the other way around. So far, the benefits of using this approach far outweigh the challenges and it has become a mechanism for change that’s been hidden in plain sight. 

In 2016 we also celebrated our first graduate to complete Pāngarau to NCEA level three – all in te reo Māori.

Renee with scientist Sara Filoche

Why do you believe engaging in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) is important to New Zealand?  

Teaching and learning in pūtaiao and pāngarau, you don’t get a choice about educating ones’ self about the issues - because Māori medium education, by its very nature, calls into question: what is taught in STEM; how STEM is taught; and who engages in STEM subjects at all levels – He whakapapa tōna, he tūāpapa ōna, he kōrero ōna hei hāpai i a ia.  

Exploring opportunities to co-exist and move between and within spaces of pūtaiao and science, pāngarau and mathematics is where all the magic is - and it provides a powerful platform for blending learning within authentic, local and meaningful contexts.

Why is it important to have more women working in STEM?

It’s important to remember that we ‘stand on the shoulders of giants’ and that we need to claim back our herstories and continue the legacy our tīpuna (ancestors) forged before us. ‘Koia i tapaina te ao, nōna te ao – She who names the world, claims the world!’

Renee with her students and the Kura Moana team

Renee (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Awa) teaches pūtaiao and pāngarau at the Wharekura (Secondary School) of Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ngā Mokopuna in Wellington.

This profile is part of our series of girls and women in STEM.

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