Ministry human resource officer Terry Utanga says of the 11 new teachers being initiated, two were returning Cook Islanders.
“We want to attract our people to come back and teach in their homeland.”
Four of the new recruits will work directly with the ministry.
Niki Silao is from Rotorua in New Zealand and will be an education advisor in inclusive education. Her background is in special needs education and she earlier spent 40 years teaching, lecturing and as a school principal. She is excited about being able to contribute to the special needs field.
Northland and Aucklander Sharlene Ata will join her as education advisor in student wellbeing. Her background is in health, physical education and social studies, and she has worked at a youth justice facility offering a tertiary programmes for disengaged youth.
Her husband is from Aororangi Utia anau and the couple have four children. Into rugby league, tag and touch, Sharlene says she loves the food, the people and the land. Her goal is “to make a positive impact on our young people, and to live life with freedom on a beautiful island”.
Returning Cook Islander Cindy Milanovic came from Queensland and will work with the ministry as a careers pathways advisor. While at Tereora previously, she was head of department of science from 2008 to 2011.
Tereora College will receive five new staff. Mother of four, Virginia Shortland will be materials technology teacher, with other subjects to be confirmed. She has had 30 years in the education sector in Northland as a principal and multicultural teacher. Virginia is keen to contribute to the reo and culture, support environmental practices and support young people and their anau to achieve their goals. She will also complete her studies for a Master’s degree in Indigenous Leadership.
The new history teacher, David Milanovic from Canada, has returned with his Cook Islands wife after teaching in Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the Cook Islands.
Wellington, New Zealand-based Craig Parker says he came to Rarotonga because the opportunity was just too good to miss. A former DJ in Wellington, he also loves running, biking and hiking. He comes to Tereora with an honours degree in English and a Master’s degree in teaching and learning. His partner Miriam Looij, also a teacher, is hoping to fill a teaching position soon.
“No matter what happens, I’ll definitely be enjoying island life,” she says.
Social science, English teacher and careers advisor, Amy Wildash has come with her fisherman husband and six-year-old daughter Katharine.
“I love working with high school students and helping them prepare for their future beyond school,” she says
Debbie Laker has been teaching in Paeroa, New Zealand and has 22 years’ experience teaching geography, social studies, English and tourism.
She brought a New Zealand geography class to Rarotonga four years ago, one of seven other visits she has made to the island.
“We wanted to move to the Cook Islands for a total change of life, now that our children have, mainly, left home. She is joined by her husband and 16-year-old daughter.
Kirsten Anderson will teach her own daughter Mia at Titikaveka College.
“We came to a wedding here last year and fell in love with Rarotonga. We came for the adventure and to experience the culture.” The two come from the Hawkes Bay in New Zealand and with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Kirsten hopes to get involved with the arts community “and make some artwork”.
Roberta Murray came to Rarotonga for a whanau reunion last year and “loved the tamariki and feeling of Rarotonga, so I left my CV at the ministry.”
From Kaitaia in New Zealand, she has experience coaching many sports teams and is looking forward to catching up with close family and relatives here.
Science teacher Karlene Belinda Teao will return to her father’s homeland Aitutaki, to teach at Araura College. The second year teacher says she “loves making science relatable to students”. She says her anau are from Teao and Manu on Aitutaki.
The new staff spent a day at the workshop preparing them to settle into work and life in the Cook Islands.