Yo Heta-Lensen

Award for Sustained Excellence in Tertiary Teaching – Kaupapa Māori category

Senior Lecturer, School of Community Studies, Unitec Institute of Technology 

Nā ngā mahi whakaako kaiako a Yo e pā ana ki te mātauranga whare kōhungahunga – i raro anō i te Kaupapa Māori –  ka whakaawea, ka puāwai, ka whakamanahia hoki te tangata. Kei te tino whakamihia ngā hua o āna mahi e āna akonga, waihoki e taunakitia ana tēnā āhuatanga i te tiketike o ngā whakatau a ngā akonga.

He wairua manaaki tō te akomanga a Yo e puāwai ai ngā pūkenga ārahi o te akonga i raro i te tikanga o te ako. He hōhonu kē te pānga o tētahi o āna kaupapa ako, arā, ko ‘Ngā Kete Mātauranga’ te ingoa. He kaupapa tērā hei whakapakari i te reo me ngā tikanga o ngā tauira kaiwhakaako. Hei tā tētahi, “Nā tēnei kōhi … kei te āta mārama au ki te hōhonutanga o tōku anō ao…”

He pēnei te kōrero ā tētahi o āna hoamahi, “ko ia tonu te pou o te mātauranga Māori ki Te Whare Wānanga o Wairaka”, hei tā tētahi anō “he tino tauira ia ki ngā kaiwhakaako me ngā akonga; … he mātau, he māia hoki ki te whakaū i ngā akoranga e hāpai ana i tō rātou mōhio ki Te Noho Kotahitanga me te whakatinanatanga o tēnā kaupapa”. Ko tā tētahi atu, “Kei te rangona te wairua Māori i roto i āna mahi, kei te whāngai tērā i a mātou i roto i ngā mahi o ia rā.”

Kei te rangona te ngākau o tēnei kaiwhakaako whakahirahira i roto i te whakataukī kei te whārangi tuatahi o tana kōpaki whakaako: “Whāia te pae tawhiti kia tata; whāia tō pae tata kia mau!"

"My teaching is about handing a korowai of inclusivity that celebrates diversity and that honours Māori as the indigenous people of this whenua to the next generation of early childhood education (ECE) kaiako."

Yo’s work in early childhood teacher education – embedded in Kaupapa Māori – is motivational, transformative and empowering. She is revered by learners for the difference she makes in their lives as evidenced through the consistently very high student satisfaction ratings.  

Yo creates learning environments to enable leadership potential to flourish through relational teaching and the principle of ako. One course she designed, ‘Ngā Kete Manaakitanga’ – helping student teachers develop their competency in te reo Māori and tikanga Māori – has had a profound impact on learners. One comments, “Through [this] course … I gained a more holistic understanding of who I am…”.

A colleague describes her as “a mainstay in the advocacy of mātauranga Māori at Unitec”, others refer to her as being “an excellent role model for staff and students; … competent and confident in the facilitation of learning opportunities that support their understanding and implementation of Te Noho Kotahitanga”. Another colleague adds, “Her approach brings wairua Māori to us all, enriching our daily lives”.

The whakataukī that leads her portfolio captures the heartfelt desires of this motivational educator: “Whāia te pae tawhiti kia tata; whāia  pae tata kia mau! – Pursue the distant pathways of your dreams so they may become your reality”.

Read Yo Heta-Lensen's profile »

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Yo Heta Lensen – Recipient of a 2020 Tertiary Teaching Excellence Award