Tania Morgan served as principal of Tereora College from 2015 to 2022. SUPPLIED/23012039
After 19 years of being an educator at Tereora College, including the past eight years as its principal, Tania Morgan stepped down last year to take on a new role as the director of the Cook Islands Tertiary Training Institute.
an interview with senior journalist Melina Etches, Morgan shares some of the
milestones of her career at the National College and her passion as an
Morgan started her teaching career in 2004 at Tereora College after graduating
from Waikato University. She taught for a year in the mathematics faculty, then
became head of mathematics for a number of years, was the NZQA Quality
Assurance, deputy principal and principal in 2015.
a principal you need to be held accountable, says Morgan, “and be open and
transparent in what you do”.
was lucky to have been exposed to different leadership styles,” she adds,
acknowledging former Tereora College principals during her time as a teacher –
Keri Herman, Darryl Waiti, Vae Unuka, Sharyn Paio, Teaea Parima and Bali Haque.
her tenure as principal she has kept in close contact with some of her
predecessors bouncing ideas off them, “because you need that sounding board,
you’re having to make decisions”.
you’ve got a number of people you are responsible for, at the end of the day
you have got to be making the best decisions.
was always, who do I have responsibility for at the end of the day – it was our
children, our students and they were our number one priority.”
considers herself lucky that she “came from the inside” and knew the systems
inside out. She knew which systems were going to work, and perhaps what needed
developing and got on with carrying on the good work.
says she was also fortunate to have teachers and staff of same mindset where
they all grew together.
decisions that were made were in the best interests of the students, “because
they are our number one”.
acknowledges the strong support from the College PTA (Parents and Teachers
Association) – former chairs Garth Henderson, Louis Enoka and current
chairperson Tepaeru Herrmann.
also gave us the autonomy to do what we do, they were, and have been very good,”
were not the only ones Morgan thought of in their best interest, there were
also the staff to consider.
in 2018, Tereora had raised concerns about pay parity for local teachers in
talks with the Ministry of Education and other government agencies.
teachers were leaving the profession in droves because their pay was too low, even
though they had the same qualifications and in a lot of cases, many more years
of the teachers who had been teaching for a very long time had put themselves
through further education and achieved higher learning – but were still sitting
on the same salary, whereas teachers from overseas with less experience and the
same qualifications were placed on higher earnings.
hurt so much, that we could bypass our Cook Islands people who are loyal and
have upskilled themselves and still not being acknowledged … it was very
upsetting,” recalls Morgan.
are a wealth of knowledge and have the inside knowledge, they are the ones we
need to put up on a pedestal.”
the pay parity discussions were still ongoing between various Government
agencies, in January 2020, the Tereora College staff and PTA brought the issue
for its “committed long serving teachers” to the forefront.
August 2021, the Tereora College staff and PTA issued a notice putting on hold
its support classes.
that month, the Ministry of Education and Tereora College reached an amicable
agreement on a position that addressed pay parity of the collective teaching
workforce across all schools.
position was ratified on Friday, August 27, 2021, and the subsequent policy to
uphold teacher remuneration began its roll out in September, 2021.
says during that period she wasn’t sure whether people understood “what we were
were not fighting for a pay rise, we were fighting for pay parity … and we were
able to get that over board.”
the Tereora Christmas 2022 break up, the college was able to acknowledge its long
servicing staff members.
was lovely to be able to do that because they deserve that acknowledgement.”
worked under former principal Bali Haque, who she says, had left a footprint.
came from New Zealand from NZQA and was very heavily involved in the
qualifications side of things, being able to marry up the academic side with
the culture of the school.
that stage the college was very heavily embedded in the “anau” system which Morgan
says they knew was going to work.
principal, Morgan says she had a very good team behind her that was able to
carry on the good work to drive that forward.
college saw their academic levels rise, she adds.
community judges us by the qualifications and what the students are achieving
and that certainly has been a focus.”
the National Certificates of Educational Achievement (NCEA) results being
released this week, Morgan is confident the results from last year will be very
of the unforeseen challenges as principal was when the Covid pandemic hit.
had to change the way in their delivery, says Morgan adding “we were very
lucky, I think our students were quite resilient coming through that period”.
obviously there were road blocks for some students, as a whole generally the
college was able to get through it.”
says the country was quite lucky that Covid didn’t hit in the way it did in
other countries. She also praised the way the country through Government and Te
Marae Ora responded to the pandemic.
think there was that layer of protection for us, and we were able to navigate
through, that way we were quite lucky in some aspects.
have been able to work through NZQA and NCEA and navigate quite easily and we
have been able to keep up with the changes.”
teachers didn’t have the opportunities to go to New Zealand and have
professional development but that made them a lot more resilient and
resourceful in terms of what they needed to do, says Morgan.
learning opened up for Tereora, she says, adding the accountability was back on
the staff on how they were going to navigate through.
they were very good in terms of being resourceful enough to source the
development that they needed, so we grew as a staff and we became a lot more
had so much knowledge here with our people that we were able to lean on when we
up the capacity with our Cook Islands people was really important and I think
we had a very good base at Tereora and Education (ministry) as a whole, as we were
able to rely on each other.”
not to say that the people coming from New Zealand didn’t have things to offer,
because they did. But what we found was that there was a big turnaround from
years previously where we had relied on the expatriate teachers that were
coming from New Zealand and further afield to be the experts … we flipped it.”
says the Cook Islands teachers became the experts in what they needed to be,
adding “that may be one of the biggest changes to empower those we have here”.
the years, the Tereora College roll number certainly increased and has now
reached 750 students.
believes people need a good foundation to get anywhere in life, acknowledging
that there are a number of people that may have not come through the education
system who have done well for themselves.
as an educator, to give you more opportunities, you are better off to stay in
education for as long as you can and became a life-long learner. There’s always
opportunities to learn but I think to give yourself the opportunities that are
out there is to remain in education.”
the education system has changed, Morgan is certain people do need to change as
do need to have a look at the styles that our students are learning because it
is different and we don’t want to be the roadblocks to them learning because
they are learning in a different space.”
as educators we do need to be flexible enough to change in the way in which we
deliver because that way we will get the best out of the students.
think that’s a journey people will be taking, they’re learning in a different
has noticed the actions of the Year 13 students, who want to become adults but
still want the teachers to help them navigate their way.
are in that transition period where they are wanting to be adults but actually
want to still be held on to because it certainly changes once you get out into
the big world.”
year Morgan resigned due to personal reasons.
was so connected to Tereora,” she says, but when a health crisis happened
within her family, she thought it was time to let go.
love Tereora College and it will always be a big part of me… but there are
year Morgan started in her new role as the director of the Cook Islands
Tertiary Training Institute (CITTI).
19 years of experience and exposure in secondary level education will be an
incredible asset to CITTI.
still in education but in a different area, and where I still need to challenge
myself,” says Morgan.
appreciates everyone who has been a part of her journey. “I am so incredibly
lucky to have had something that makes saying ‘aere ra’ so hard. Kia Toa, e Kia