Skip Content
Deborah McKillop: Graduate Te Ara reo Māori

As an older student, learning reo Māori was slightly daunting for Ōpōtiki College teacher, Deborah Mckillop. But after learning she would be taught by one of her former student’s, things became more relaxed.

Deborah has taught biology at Ōpōtiki’s local secondary school for 40 years, so making the switch from teacher to tauira (student) was quite a big change.

“My teachers (Maxine Tai and Tracy Gilmer) were so encouraging. As an older person it’s quite scary but they were so kind and had such great teaching skills,” says 62-year-old Deborah who last year completed Te Ara Reo Māori (He Pī Ka Rere) level 3 and 4 at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa campus in Ōpōtiki.

After living in Ōpōtiki for most of her life, Deborah thought that she would have been able to learn te reo through listening to the many fluent speakers in the community.

But in 2021 she accepted that she was going to have to make a deliberate effort to learn and she decided to enrol in Te Ara Reo Māori (He Pī ka Pao) level 1 and 2 at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.

“I thought that now is finally the time. We had a group of about eight teachers who signed up at the same time and we all did it together. It was so fun and it was great learning.”

Studying reo Māori was about more than just learning a new language for Deborah, she also came away from the programme with a new understanding of te ao Māori (the Māori worldview) and how that could be incorporated in her own classroom.

“I teach the classification of plants but now I start with the whakapapa of the plants and I go back to Tāne and how the trees are all connected. I’ve been amazed at the added value my learning has had in my class.”

"I feel confident to read and listen for basic te reo Māori but I still need to grow my ability to whakahoki (respond) more quickly. If I don't practice, I’m going to go backwards so there is still a challenge ahead.”

Find out more about our te reo Māori programmes

 Back to news & events

Published On: 26 April 2023

Article By: Cassia Ngaruhe



Other Articles

  • 18 July 2024

    Student’s thirst for knowledge leads to a diploma in Māori and Indigenous Art

    Tereinamu Hakopa has a thirst for knowledge and is dedicated to sharing the knowledge she gains with those around her.

  • 11 July 2024

    Northland rangatahi making strides in her reo Māori journey

    By learning te reo Māori, 22-year-old Sophie Doyle hopes to be an example to her whānau and generations to come, embodying the vision of Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, whānau transformation through education.

  • 2 July 2024

    Sharing a Māori view of uku

    In a creative field largely dominated by non-Māori artists, ceramicist Tracy Keith (Ngāpuhi) is always happy to educate others about how Māori view and use uku (clay).

  • 24 June, 2024

    Rotorua crew manager empowering women in forestry

    Truedy Taia is all about empowering women to achieve in a male-dominated industry. Truedy leads the first all-women crew for Rotorua-based forestry organisation, Mahi Rākau after being invited to start one a few years ago.