Even after 30 years of teaching Kaitaia College teacher Edwin Smith is always looking to improve.

And it's that commitment to improvement that has seen Mr Smith awarded a Woolf Fisher Fellowship award for a study trip to Canada.

He will use the award, worth more than $7000, to visit First Nation schools to see some of the educational initiatives undertaken to enable aboriginal peoples to achieve educational success within their cultural context.

The purpose of the award is to enable Mr Smith, head of maths at the college, to study education with particular reference to his own subject.

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''Even after almost 30 years of teaching I am always looking to develop my craft, because each class is different and each year is different. The funding is to enable the recipient to take an overseas trip for some activity that has an educational focus - one that will contribute to your development as an educator.

''I am still early in the planning stages, but I would love to visit Canada to see first-hand some of their educational initiatives for First Nations peoples.

''I am particularly keen to see any initiatives aimed at improving student outcomes in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects, since I am passionate about my subject mathematics. My research suggests they have had some successes and some failures in First Nations education policy, and I think it is just as important to see what has not worked as it is to see what has.''

Mr Smith said there has been a link established between Maori education in New Zealand and First Nations education in Canada, particularly through Te Kotahitanga who hosted a group of educators from Saskatchewan as recently as 2013.

''Early research I have conducted suggests there are more similarities than differences in the approaches to education in both communities, some shared historical experiences, and common emphasis on cultural responsiveness.''

He said interestingly enough, in 2010 the Winnipeg Free Press had the headline "Canada could learn from New Zealand's Maori" while in 2016 Maori Television credited Labour MP Peeni Henare with being of the opinion that "Canada's commitment to indigenous people an example for NZ".

''Far from seeing this as a contradiction, I see it as a classic demonstration of the great opportunity for two-way communication and the cross-fertilisation of ideas.''

Mr Small is only the fourth Kaitaia College teacher in the history of the kura to be awarded the Woolf Fisher Award.