Associate Teacher shares UNESCO award-winning knowledge at Rotorua centre

Associate Teacher shares UNESCO award-winning knowledge at Rotorua centre

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Head Teacher at Tiaki Early Learning Centre in Rotorua, Katherine Maud’s vision to “walk softly on the earth” supports her role as a New Zealand Tertiary College (NZTC) Associate Teacher.

Tiaki welcomes NZTC students into the centre to complete their practicums, where Katherine said “teachers value individual student’s personal beliefs and encourage them to develop strong values so that they can go on to advocate for high quality care and education for all tamariki.”

Recently awarded a UNESCO Global Citizenship award for Innovation and named as a finalist in NZ Gardener’s Gardener of the Year awards, Tiaki Early Learning Centre has shown a unique commitment to fostering sustainable living practices.

“We encourage students to embrace the Tiaki philosophy while they are with us, to challenge their perceptions of what tamariki are capable of and take away practical ways to care for Papatūānuku,” Katherine said.

The centre and students benefit from the Associate Teacher relationship with some students becoming valued team members.

“We value the new learning students bring with them, as we understand the concept of ako and the importance of reciprocal learning,” she said.

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Tiaki Head Teacher Katherine Maud with Centre Owner Gayle Bell

“Through connections and authentic relationships between tamariki, whānau, kaiako, the local community, te ao Māori and the natural world, we are all provided with meaningful learning opportunities.”

The centre has adopted an entirely vegan menu and a para kore (zero waste) focus, aiming to eliminate all plastic, chemicals and preservatives from their kitchen.

“Things that would ordinarily come in plastic are now made from scratch by our chef. Things like bread, crackers, hummus, biscuits and muesli bars are all homemade,” said Katherine.

“The children are also often involved in the making of these and tending for the gardens which provide much of the kai, resulting in lots of wonderful opportunities for learning.”

Children at Tiaki are encouraged to connect with nature every day, whether that be through simple outdoor play or group excursions to care for the local wetlands.

“There is a paddock with vegetable gardens, an orchard and plenty of space to run, climb and play. The outside environment is intentionally designed to encourage children to connect with nature,” she said.