Teaching and sharing knowledge is a natural and integral part of being Māori for Te Wānanga o Aotearoa kaiako (teacher), Rauangi Ohia.
“With our knowledge there’s an expectation or a responsibility to pass it on and to share it. I just think it’s an integral part of being Māori. We are sharing the knowledge that has been passed on to us.”
The Tauranga local had always taught Māori performing arts up until six years ago when her husband decided he wanted to learn te reo Māori.
“I started a reo group for my husband to learn but then it became really popular and more people wanted to join. I started teaching 10-week te reo Māori courses just on my own, until I started teaching again back here at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.”
Seeing tauira (students) transform on both a spiritual and physical level is a highlight for Rauangi and the motivation behind why she continues to teach.
“The transformation of my tauira is really evident within a year. To be honest a lot of them come in looking one way and walk out looking totally different, they have so much more confidence.”
Learning reo Māori isn’t always a straightforward journey where tauira will learn a new language but Rauangi says it also involves self-discovery.
“More than anything, they learn about themselves. They learn who they are, which has to be the foundation of their reo journey. Without that, it’s empty.”
Rauangi recognises that learning te reo Māori can be both a difficult and nerve-racking experience for anyone, even for Māori who are ready to take the step and reconnect with their culture.
This is why she works hard to create a learning environment where tauira feel both safe and comfortable to make mistakes and share their stories.
“Just start the process and trust that you will be taken care of. Even the smallest step is a big step.”