Soteria Mulipola- Samu hopes a degree in counselling and diploma in teaching will one day go hand-in-hand.
The 35-year-old was awarded a $25,000 Kupe Scholarship by the Associate Education Minister Kelvin Davis in a ceremony at the Parliament in Wellington yesterday afternoon. Mulipola-Samu is completing a Graduate Diploma of Teaching at the Bethlehem Institute of Education.
She has spent five weeks in Tauranga completing her studies and will be back again in October for her final week of study before she graduates in November.
Mulipola- Samu was currently on placement at Auckland's Lynfield College.
But Mulipola- Samu said it was while she was studying a degree in counselling that she decided to become a teacher.
"I was on a placement at Henderson High School [Auckland] when I started connecting with the students and realised I enjoyed working with that age group," she said.
She was frustrated at seeing alot of the students struggling academically and having it effecting other areas of their life.
So she decided to combine the two professions and study teaching at the Bethlehem Institute of Education.
But Mulipola- Samu said her experience at high school at Lynfield College and Onehunga High was similar to the students she was working with.
"I dropped out of high school because I didn't have the support," she said. "I wanted to be the help that I needed."
Being a teacher was tough and challenging, but very rewarding, Mulipola- Samu said.
"You can see the kids light up when they learn something new," she said.
However, Mulipola- Samu said she can see there were areas where teachers were undervalued and did believe there was a staffing shortage.
She said there needed to be more support for teachers, more resources and better pay to make teaching a more desirable occupation.
Looking ahead, Mulipola- Samu hoped to use her degree and teaching diploma to work with the students who were the most vulnerable.
The prestigious Kupe Scholarships recognises highly accomplished Māori and Pacific students and supports them to complete their teaching qualification and gain further success teaching in New Zealand.
Kupe scholarship recipients will have their course fees paid; receive a $15,000 study allowance, professional mentoring and assistance with finding a job. The scholarship is worth over $25,000.
More than 70 applications were received for the 30 available scholarships.
Ministry of Education's deputy secretary of early learning and student achievement Ellen MacGregor-Reid said the Kupe scholars were highly-accomplished.
"These individuals are passionate about their respective communities, passionate about the kaupapa and will be welcomed to the profession when they graduate," she said.
"Each recipient has an incredible backstory of drive and purpose that has got them here today. I congratulate them and look forward to hearing more from them in the future."