Tarayn is an Associate Principal at Dawson Primary School in Ōtara who inspires her students with scientific projects such as redesigning wētā houses.
What do you do on an average work day? He aha tō mahi ia rā, ia rā?
No day is the same in my role. I can be in classrooms doing observations, running PD (professional development), attending meetings, relieving in a class, working with students to create our school news programme, taking specialised lessons, working with groups, testing, completing paperwork, answering emails, working with students on behaviour, attending assemblies and so much more.
My day is constantly changing and you have to be ready to be flexible and adaptable but working with students makes it all worth it.
What did you study at school? And after high school? I ako koe i te aha i te kura? I aha koe whai muri i te kura tuarua?
When I finished high school I left New Zealand for the very first time. I was from a small town called Opotiki in the Bay of Plenty and other than my travels in New Zealand I hadn’t been overseas. I bought a one way ticket to England, where I worked and travelled for 2 years broadening my horizons and having some great life experiences before returning to New Zealand.
I completed my Bachelor of Teaching at Waikato University and stayed to do a further year to gain my honours degree. While studying and teaching I completed a Te Ara Reo Maori course at the Te Wānanga O Aotearoa, a Graduate Certificate in Primary Science Teaching at the Open Polytechnic and undertook other upskilling in digital technology and ICT.
Was your study directly related to what you do now?
My study got me started in teaching and I am continually upskilling and learning about changes in education and how I can do better for our students. One of my favourite quotes is by Nelson Mandela: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.
What would you like to share with young women who are thinking about their career choices right now? He aha āu kupu hei āwhina i ngā rangatahi wahine e whakaaro ana ki tā rātou mahi mō te wā kei mua i te aroaro?
It is okay not to have everything worked out from the beginning - start with something you are interested in.
Your experiences change who you are and what you want to do with your life. Get involved, visit places, talk to others about what they do and love, ask questions and never stop learning.
What are some of your career highlights so far? He aha ngā painga o te umanga e whāia ana e koe?
I have taught from Year 1 to Year 6 and watched students grow and learn. When past students come back and tell you what they have been up to and the memories they have it is extremely rewarding.
One of my highlights is from my students being involved in a Participatory Science Platform project over the last few years, where they re-designed a wētā house. They researched, spoke to experts, created prototypes, visited the wētā breeding team at the zoo, worked with engineers, sent their prototypes out to be tested and featured on TV on shows like Fanimals. There was so much learning involved and this allowed all students to be successful regardless of prior experiences or academic ability.
Why do you believe engaging in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) is important to New Zealand? He aha a STEM (pūtaiao, hangarau, pūkaha, pāngarau) e whai take ana ki Aotearoa?
The world is continually changing and the differences from when I went to school, compared to when I started teaching and again to today are vast. The opportunities out there are limitless and by engaging in STEM you are providing hands on learning that is relevant to students, it gives them perspective on the world around them, and the skills and drive needed to be successful and make a difference to the world around us.
Why is it important to have more women working in STEM? He aha te take me whai wāhi ngā wāhine ki STEM?
Women make up half the world’s population but they do not represent anywhere near half of those working in STEM. STEM is increasingly evident and important to our economy and it is imperative to gain a variety of insights and have role models that show girls that is not only an option for them but a desirable choice where they can thrive.
Tarayn is an Associate Principal at Dawson Primary School in Ōtara. She is also a Curious Minds Ambassador.
This profile is part of our series of girls and women in STEM.
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