Graduation is going to be an extra special time for Shiran Atira of Hastings, with her parents flying out from Israel to see her capped one day and married the next.

As a valedictorian, Ms Atira will also have the honour of representing fellow graduates from EIT's School of Education and Social Sciences Ideaschool and Te Manga Maori in delivering an address to family and friends attending Friday morning's traditional ceremony being held at Napier's Municipal Theatre.

The 29-year-old, from the city of Kfar Saba in the centre of Israel, will graduate with a Bachelor of Teaching (early childhood education).

The following day, her parents, two uncles and two aunts from Ms Atira's homeland will be among 60 guests gathering at Waimarama to celebrate her marriage to Hawke's Bay builder Ben Hazelwood.


The couple met in Israel when Mr Hazelwood was visiting his sister, who is married to an Israeli.

When the couple decided to move to New Zealand, she expected to continue her engineering studies.

However, Mr Hazelwood, originally from Flaxmere, wanted to be close to family and he was offered a building apprenticeship - completed 18 months ago - in Hawke's Bay.

Now a provisionally registered teacher at the recently opened Piccolini Nursery and Private Kindergarten in Greenmeadows, Ms Atira is happy about her changed career direction. "I think my passion is with children. I love it," she says.

Starting at the first Piccolini centre in Havelock North five years ago, Ms Atira helped with making lunches and doing the washing

But watching other students on practicum, she felt she could train as an early childhood educator.

"I like being part of a team. In Israel, after my two years of army service, I was in customer services - another job setting where everyone works together. Piccolini staff bounce ideas off each other. You have to communicate and I think I'm a very good communicator."

Throughout her degree studies at EIT, Ms Atira has been mentored by Piccolini associate teacher Melissa Alderton. She has also had practicums at different early childhood centres, working with all age groups.

"I enjoy the children at every age but think I'm a kindergarten sort of person. I'm passionate about teaching the over-3s because they provide such a lot of feedback."

Ms Atira says her fiance is proud of her achievement.

"He knew I could achieve and supported me. And he appreciates that I've done it in a second language."

Like all Israeli children, Ms Atira learned English from around the age of 10 but rates her command of the language on coming to New Zealand as seven out of 10.

Now she would give it a 10 - "although others might disagree," she laughs.

The couple are planning to build up a secure financial base in New Zealand before eventually returning to Israel to live.

But they will be visiting in August to stage the traditional wedding celebration for some 350-400 guests.