Success in Pacific Education Grant recipients 2018


Michael Fenwick

Michael FenwickKia Orana. My name is Michael Tearikimana Fenwick. I am an Academic Manager at Middle School West Auckland. My mother was born in Atiu, the Cook Islands, and my father was born in New Zealand. I have had wonderful opportunities in teaching, spending 16 years at International School in South Korea and Hong Kong. I have learned a lot about education abroad, and would like to investigate opportunities to empower our Pasifika youth with the tools to be contributors to our global society.

In my opinion, positive schooling experiences begin with a positive psychology approach to teaching, learning and inclusion. Through this grant I want to investigate further a positive schooling approach that champions concepts such as “broaden and build” and using character strengths to build self-worth, belonging and family engagement through school. Hopefully, this research can help to provide a map our Pasifika families can use to build positive school stories, particularly those disenfranchised by the schooling system for whatever reason.

Investigating the common character strengths we already uphold in our Pasifika cultures is an entry point to a conversation about what our areas of strength and areas of focus are. Getting alongside families in the community, building a common language of learning, providing authentic contexts for expression, and telling our stories is an exciting challenge. Developing lifelong learners in the Pasifika community is a signpost to success.


Junior Si'ilata

Junior Si ilataTalofa lava, my name is Junior Si’ilata and I am of Samoan, Tongan, and Fijian heritage. I am the Head of Pasifika at Fraser High School. My Father is from Neiafu, Savai’i and my Mother is from Vaigaga, Upolu in the beautiful islands of Samoa. I was born in New Zealand and raised in Otara, South Auckland. My motivation as a Pasifika educator is to inspire all Pacific Island students by sharing my experience, cultural knowledge and alofa as someone who once walked the same path.

For my inquiry I am curious to find out why so many of our Pasifika students in High School are sometimes disconnected and unmotivated especially at senior levels. As a Group Tutor I have identified a growing trend that concerns me and it starts from Year 9. It is that student’s attitudes, attendance and general desire to achieve at the higher levels of NCEA decreases. We as Pasifika people value and place education as a priority and something that is of great importance, but the way things are going for some my students I can see many of them losing the vision and passion for learning.

My project places my Pasifika learners at the centre for the inquiry and I firmly believe that it is absolutely paramount that our Pasifika families are engaged in their child’s learning and are active participants. My inquiry will be a platform for my students to feel safe in knowing that their voice is valued and that they are free to share their concerns, challenges, aspirations and ideas on how we as teachers, families and communities can better support them.

Brenda Devery

Brenda DeveryBula Vinaka. I am Brenda Devery. I am a New Zealand born teacher of Fijian and European heritage. I am lucky enough that because of my Grandmother, I belong to a large Pasifika family descended from Tavewa Island in the Yasawas. I am Assistant Principal and help lead our Pasifika learners at Waverley Park School in Invercargill.

Our families have expressed a ‘want’ to build on from our cultural group and grow in our awareness of what is important for our Pasifika learners. My project will focus on continuing to make connections and engage with our Pasifika families. It will help me to build and lead our teacher capability and understanding to create culturally responsive learning environments.

I am passionate about setting high expectations for our Pasifika learners by providing alternative learning opportunities that acknowledge their culture and identities. Year 6 student quote “You have helped me a lot and encouraged me to join the Pasifika group. My sisters and I don’t know much about our culture and we really want to learn.” This is what inspires me!!


Sheela Rao, Esther Nagera, Lorna Williams, Ailini Mataliki Apete-McDonald, and Epi Peato

Lorna Williams Esther Nagera Epi Peato Ailini Apete and Sheela Raote Essence of the Pacific Early Learning Centre RotoruaEpi Peato

Malo ni, koau ko Epi mai he tama motu ote Pahefika ko Tokelau. I am a mother of five children and I have been here at Essence of the Pacific ever since it opened and I’ve had the privilege to watch it grow and improve to what it is today. Relationship is the foundation to everything between community, teachers and whanau because they all connect to the child’s world, identity and culture. Relationship is what helps children grow physically, spiritually, mentally and socially and when you work with a great team of colleagues, the reciprocal relationship between us helps our tamariki to extend on their interest within a friendly and safe environment

Our inquiry project that we are planning is on developing an authentic Pasifika lenses for effective equitable learning opportunity for Pasifika learners.

This grant will enable us to research and find out what are authentic Pasifika lenses to move our and ensure they achieve success. It will also give us an opportunity to investigate if we need more lenses than the ones we already have for our Pasifika leaners?


Sheela Rao

Talofa lava, Kia orana, Fakaalofa atu, Talofa ni, Ni sa bula, Mālō e lelei, Tena koe, Namaste and warm Pasifika greetings.

My Name is Sheela Rao and I am the head teacher of Essence of the Pacific Early Learning Centre in Rotorua. I was born and raised In India and migrated to New Zealand in 2002.
I am passionate about teaching Pasifika children and finding ways to make them 21st century learners.


Esther Nagera

Nissa bula Vinaka!

My name is Esther Nagera, originally from Fiji. I have been teaching for 20 years in Fiji at Primary and Intermediate level. I am a qualified teacher with a Diploma in Teaching from Fiji. The Rotorua Pacific Island Development trust invited me to work at our ECE when it opened last year. I started working here and I loved the environment, teachers and especially teaching our own Pasifika children. My passion is to be with the children and to build a strong foundation for our own Pasifika children.


Lorna Williams

Tena koe, Talofa lava, Fakaolola atu, Talota ni, Kia orana, Nisa Bula, Malo e lelei, and Warm Pasifika greetings. Ko lorna Williams toku injoa, Ko Te Ararwa te waka, ko Ngati Whakaea te hapu, ko Rotorua ahau.

I am a qualified Early Childhood teacher and work at Essence of the Pacific Early Learning Centre. I am passionate about our Pasifika tamariki and their whanau. It has been a great pleasure working alongside our Pasifika teachers, learning their mother tongue through waiata, stories and cultural traditions.


Ailini Mataliki Apete-McDonald

Malo ni! 

My name is Ailini Mataliki Apete-McDonald. In 2016 I graduated with a Diploma in Early Childhood Education from Toi Oho Mai Institute of Technology. I am a descendant of Tokelau and was born and raised here in Rotorua. I am passionate about children learning through holistic development. Creative arts are an area am also passionate about, especially expressive story telling. We have many children who, through singing, dance and artistic expression find pure enjoyment. I am excited to be working alongside my colleague Epi and the Essence team in sharing our Tokelau culture with children and the wider community.