Nikola Patrick was the top Maori pupil in her class at school, and her dad didn’t approve. “He was a very staunch European, Navy man,” says Nikola.
But it would still mean the world to her to tell him she’s won a TeachNZ Maori Pasifika High Achievers Scholarship.
The 39-year-old solo mother won a $15,000 grant towards her studies and she can’t tell her dad. Sadly, Kenneth Cook passed away in 2013.
“I know he’d be really proud,” says Nikola. “It’s been quite a hard journey for me being back at school and it’s hard him not being here to share it with.
“He was a real champion for my education. He really encouraged me with my learning. He saw in me that I could achieve and had a brain that would just get stuff.
“He always wanted me to go back to school. I finally made the decision just after he passed away.”
Nikola will be presented a certificate by the Minister of Education at a special award ceremony in Wellington on October 13.
She’ll stand in the same building her dad did when he was presented a British Empire Medal by the NZ Governor General. “I feel like I’m following in his footsteps,” says Nikola.
She’s in her second year of her Bachelor of Teaching degree at Bethlehem Tertiary Institute. The scholarship is based on students’ marks, their vision for teaching, how they’ll implement Maori culture into their teaching practice and what their leadership qualities are.
“I think it’s important to include te reo,” says Nikola. “A big part of me wanting to teach is to implement biculturalism in the classroom.
“It’s important the two founding cultures of our country work together and a lot of that comes down to our languages. Maori is one of the official languages of our country but it’s dying out. So someone has to do something about that.” That someone is Nikola.
A fluent Maori speaker, Nikola believes te reo is a form of self-expression. “It’s a very poetic and beautiful language, it’s very descriptive.
“I’ve worked as a tutor for four years and I’ve worked with boys with learning difficulties and behavioural problems in the class. But mate, you get them doing a haka, that just gets all their anxiety and frustration and they’re fully self-expressed. It’s awesome.”
Born in Auckland, Nikola describes herself as an “urban Maori” who spent years denying her culture.
“So to be able to embrace it and let it be my self-expression, and be able to pass that on to the children that I’m going to teach, it’s huge.”
Nikola thanks her mother and two children for their support. To her father: “I’m going to parliament Dad, I’m going to parliament.”
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