Emma-Jane Jones has revolutionised her workplace into a bicultural practice that teaches both English and te reo Maori.

The 27-year-old early childhood teacher from Welcome Bay said when she first started working at the Pamir Place Children's Garden Preschool and Childcare three years ago, the kids associated speaking Maori with "kai", as it was only used around meal times.

Now, all of the teachers at the preschool have or are currently completing a Te Ao Marama course in Maori language and culture and can speak a basic amount of Maori, which they use talking to the kids throughout the day.

"We're always trying to expand it further. We started off using single words, now we're using phrases and sentences," Ms Jones said.


The preschool has poi, rakau [sticks], te reo Maori board games and an ethnicity board which has photos of the kids beside the flags of the cultures they identify with.

The school celebrated Matariki with a festival and have even bigger plans in store for Maori Language Week which started yesterday to get parents involved.

Ms Jones said they would be having a "kupu a day" where kids were taught a different Maori word each day and parents were encouraged to use it around home to help them learn.

They also plan on posting a question about Maori culture on their noticeboard daily for parents to answer for a prize.

"The parents have to go research the question to find out the answer, so it's encouraging them to learn it as well."

She said her passion for the language developed when she experienced it being spoken while completing her degree in early childcare at bicultural school Te Tari Puna O Aoeteroa in Rotorua.

Now she is passing along the knowledge to the younger generation and said there was nothing but good to be gained from it.

"I think second language acquisition is beneficial, because their brains develop faster and the kids just really love it," Ms Jones said.


The preschool has a roll of 31, ranging from infants to 5-year-olds.

Ms Jones said about a quarter were from a Maori background, but being Maori didn't necessarily mean the language was spoken as she was of Maori descent but was still learning the language.

"When my dad was growing up he was of the generation where he wasn't allowed to speak it.

"I don't want my kids to lose their culture and not be exposed to it like I was," she said.

She said her 10-year-old son went to The Children's Garden as a preschooler and thrived learning Maori, but she was disappointed to see him quickly lose the language once he went on to school.

"It's a bit of shame primary schools don't push it as much as we do. I'd get behind it," she said.

She said the language had not lost its importance as it was still an official language of New Zealand.

"With Maori TV and a lot of job opportunities now, having the ability to speak Maori on your CV is definitely going to be an opportunity when you grow up."