Sisters family's latest teachers

By Sophie Ryan

Two sisters graduated yesterday as the fourth generation in a long line of more than 30 past and present teachers.

Whitney Toapuho and her sister Shontelle Wihongi are the 14th and 15th in their family to obtain a Bachelor of Education in teaching from the University of Auckland Tai Tokerau campus in Whangarei.

Their great-grandmother was a teacher for more than 40 years in Te Araroa on the East Coast and 25-year-old Miss Wihongi said she hoped yesterday would be the start of a career as long as her great-grandmother's.

"Our mother, aunties, uncles, cousins and grandfather have either worked at, or studied through, the Tai Tokerau campus, and walked away with degrees, post-graduate diplomas and even masters qualifications in education," Miss Wihongi said.

Two of the sisters' aunts, as well as their mother, lecture at the campus.

"Our inspiration comes from our family members, and all the time we spent at schools growing up. We spent countless days, nights, weekends and school holidays at schools," Miss Wihongi said.

The Tai Tokerau campus was an asset to Whangarei, she said.

"Northland needs to hold on to these teachers. Some of these people graduating with me today are just amazing. They're so creative and really love the kids around here," she said.

She and her sister were relieving at Whangarei schools and hoped to find full-time teaching jobs in Northland.

"Teachers from Northland know exactly what these kids need."

The girls were proud of their achievements and enjoyed the day's celebration.

They had relatives from the Niuean side of the family fly out from the islands for the day.

As well, an aunt had flown over from Australia to be there for the occasion, Miss Wihongi said.

The sisters graduated with about 40 classmates in front of faculty, family and friends at Forum North.

- Northern Advocate

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