Ruta McKenzie

Pacific Cultural Lead and Lead Facilitator – Early Years

Region: Canterbury/Chatham Islands
Ruta McKenzie Full shot CORE Education


Bachelor of Teaching and Learning (ECE)
Certificate in Management
Diploma in Teaching in Primary and Early Childhood
Higher Diploma of Teaching

Professional profile

Ruta has a strong and proven commitment to Early Childhood Education with 32 years working as a centre manager and an early childhood facilitator. This role involved working with governance and management, teachers and senior team leaders in varied settings, facilitating and challenging teachers' pedagogical thinking and beliefs, enabling them to make transformative change in their practice.

Ruta's years of involvement in education have been an ongoing journey, and her cultural understandings are evident in relationships and facilitation practice within Tātai Aho Rau, the early childhood sector and beyond. The increase of multi-faceted cultures in the education sector enables her to be respectful and open to differences and to embrace and celebrate cultural diversity.

Ruta’s new role as a cultural lead is to provide cultural and strategic leadership and guidance in Tātai Aho Rau activities and work streams that are focussed on Pacific learning environments across early years, schooling and tertiary settings.

Ruta led the Ministry of Education: Pasifika Leadership Programme and the Southern Pasifika Project. She was co-researcher in the TLRI research in Christchurch focusing on how young children express and develop working theories about identity, language and culture.

Ruta played a vital role in the Pasifika Advisory Group sharing discourse and dialogue which resulted in significant change to Pasifika students' success.


Extensive experience in facilitating professional development for governance and management, local curriculum, mentoring and working with Pacific communities including:

  • Facilitating relationships, discussion and professional learning for governance and management groups and curriculum implementation for teachers from diverse early childhood services.
  • Mentoring Curriculum Champions working with pedagogical leaders in the updated Te Whāriki 2017 and currently mentoring leaders who are working with Pacific learners across the country.
  • Knowledge and understanding in facilitating local curriculum connectedness between Te Whāriki and the NZC.
  • Understanding key documents to raise Pasifika and Māori successes in Early Childhood Education; Ka Hikitia, Pasifika Education Plan, Te Whāriki 2017, Tātaiako and Tapasā.
  • Facilitating the Implementation of Tapasā from early childhood to schools.
  • Designing and facilitating professional development around culturally responsive teaching practices.
  • Strong relationships with the Pasifika community in Christchurch increasing participation and Pasifika success.

Professional body membership

2021: Member of the Advisory Board on Gifted children
2019–Present: Member of the Advisory Board Rātā Foundation: Transition to school
2019–Present: Member of the Advisory Board for Rātā Foundation: Strengthening the Sector
2019–2020: Member of the Advisory Board for Te Whāriki 2017
2017–Present: Member of Board Advisory, Hornby Pasifika Early Childhood service.
2011–Present: Member of the Early Childhood Future Networks in Christchurch.
2016–Present: Member of the Advisory Board for the Barnardos, Hornby Pasifika Early Childhood Service.
2014–Present: Member of the Advisory board for the SAASIA organisation

Recent publications

2016 with K. Davis, 'Rainbows, sameness, and other working theories about identity, language and culture'. An article published in the Early Childhood Folio vol.20 no.1.
2014 'Transitioning Children from A’oga Amata to Palagi schools'. An article published in the first SAASIA book called O Pelega o Fanau: Treasuring Children.

Recent conferences, presentations and workshops

2021 with J Mason, Making sense of Tapasā. Presented to Hakatere Ashburton Kahui Ako.
2019 with J Mason, Making sense of Tapasā. Presented at uLearn in Rotorua
2017 with K Davis, Children’s working theories about identity, language and culture. Presented at the NAZARE conference, Palmerston North.
2017 with K Davis, Children’s working theories about identity, language and culture. Presented at Kidsfirst Kindergarten, Canterbury.
2016 with K Davis, Children’s working theories about identity, language and culture. Presented at Te Rito Maioha Conference.
2016 with K Davis. Coconuts and Cultural Competence. Presented at The Gathering, Christchurch.
2016 Pasifika Education Plan in Action. Presented at Hutt City Kindergartens, Wellington.
2015 The four baskets of Cultural Leadership. Presented at Tātai Aho Rau Core Education, Auckland.

Recent Awards

2023 - Received the award: Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, in this year’s New Years Honours list, for services to Pacific education.

Personal statement

My strengths are to bring my cultural experience, wisdom and mana into working with families, fānau and kaiako from diverse cultures to ensure that they thrive and experience success in their learning journey.

I am very passionate about families and fānau connecting with their identities, languages, cultures and their stories that they bring with them.