Four local students have been awarded a Kupe Scholarship for outstanding Maori and Pasifika student teachers.
Richard Apanui says the importance of education was passed to him from his nan and now he wants to inspire the next generation.
The former Southland rugby star is one of 30 outstanding Maori and Pasifika student teachers to be awarded a Kupe Scholarship, announced today.
Mr Apanui is about to complete his Graduate Diploma of teaching at the Bethlehem Tertiary Institute and hoped the scholarship would help him secure his first job.
The scholarships cover course fees, study allowances and provide professional mentoring and job find assistance after graduation.
"Being recognised as a Maori leader is important for me as well and hopefully that's something prospective employees are looking for," Mr Apanui said.
He had completed his three practicums at Bethlehem College, Katikati College and Papamoa College and said he ideally wanted to stay in the Bay where he had settled with his wife and their three children at Christmas.
With a Bachelor of Business behind him, Mr Apanui was qualified to teach business studies as well as Te Reo Maori and French.
Education runs in his blood with both his mum and sister also working as teachers.
Growing up in a rural township on the North Island's East Coast, Richard Apanui was inspired by his Mum, his nan and his Maori teacher.
"He went out of his way and helped me with a speech competition and taught me some valuable lessons along the way."
It was that kind of interaction and inspiration that Mr Apanui wanted to pass onto his students.
As a Maori teacher he hoped he would better relate to Maori students and help those who had come from tough backgrounds.
"It's not easy for some of those kids. It is tough out there.
"When you've been brought up with those circumstances you know how to motivate change."
He hoped he could show them a better future.
"Just encouraging them and showing them there's another pathway they can take. Just being a good role model really.
"If you're able to go back and show them there's another way to operate then that's pretty cool."
Mr Apanui was one of four local student teachers to be awarded the scholarship along with Stephen Moli from Gate Pa, Angelo Morehu from Tauranga and Nikola Patrick from Otumoetai.
Miss Patrick is in her second year of a Bachelor of Teaching (Primary) and will graduate in 2017.
"I have sacrificed a lot of time with my children in order to do justice to my studies," she said.
"The provision of this scholarship honours that time away from them and also provides them with another role model of achievement in the tertiary sector."
She said New Zealand needed more bi-culturally literate educators who embraced relationship as the primary foundation for teaching.
"Every student flourishes in a bicultural classroom culture of love, whether gifted and talented or behaviourally or academically challenged."
Deputy secretary of student achievement at the Ministry of Education Dr Graham Stoop said the Ministry was proud to have created the Kupe Scholarships as an important initiative to celebrate and support the country's outstanding Maori and Pasifika teaching students.
"We were delighted with the high calibre of applications," he said.
"This is a prestigious scholarship that will assist these teaching students to further their teaching journey. Our future teachers will be leading New Zealand's next generation. They deserve our recognition and our ongoing support."