Tāmaki Innovation Campus


Teri Ko
Teri Ko (in the middle) at the CertHSc Cultural Wānanga in 2015 at Hoani Waititi Marae in Glen Eden with CertHSc students and a student helper

From first day nerves to winning awards for early career excellence in teaching has been just part of the Tāmaki journey for Teri Ko, Professional Teaching Fellow in Te Kupenga Hauora Maori.

Four years after walking in as a ‘nervous newbie’ she was awarded the Butland Award for Early Career Excellence in teaching 2018, through the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences. The award recognises teaching excellence within six years of the first appointment as a university teacher.

Teri was commended for her commitment to empowering Māori and Pacific students, using innovative teaching activities to support their learning; and went on to receive the University of Auckland 2018 Teaching Excellence Award in the same category.

“I had prepared my teaching portfolio as part of my PD in Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice and thought I would submit it for the Butland award - although I didn’t really think I would get it! The Butland committee at FMHS then supported me to go forward for the University of Auckland teaching award,” says Teri.

“This has really helped me in terms of my sense of belonging in the university community and to have more confidence in my teaching style.”

Teri Ko currently coordinates and teaches MAORIHTH 23H and MAORIHTH 24H, foundation-level chemistry papers within the Certificate in Health Sciences programme. It is a bridging programme for Māori and Pacific students wanting to progress onto programmes within the FMHS such as nursing, health science, optometry, medicine and pharmacy.

It’s aimed, she says, at removing potential barriers created by low achievement and participation rates by Māori and Pacific students in science; and particularly in chemistry which is a core requirement. There is possibility that this subject is acting as a barrier for Māori and Pacific students’ entry into a pathway in health.”

Teri has put a great deal of thought, research and discipline into developing her teaching style. “I strive to be a part of my students’ academic journey by creating engaging learning resources and spaces that encourage them to try, sometimes fail, and in the process, learn.

“It is important to me that students are not only exposed to content and knowledge, but also have space where they feel safe and confident to practice learning skills such as how to think, process information, problem-solve, and make inferences.”

Her goal is to have students leaving her course with a solid schema of knowledge as well as a kete (basket) of transferrable skills to ensure success in future studies and life-long learning.

“I want them to feel empowered to do well. Above all, I want them to remember their time with me as an enjoyable and gratifying experience.”

Ask about her journey so far and the answer is ‘interesting’. With her honour’s degree in cellular physiology, she was initially employed as tutor for the biology course within the programme, progressing to a PTF during the programme restructure in 2014 and responsible for the design/redesign of chemistry papers.

“I was really lucky as the department saw the value in my skills in teaching and engaging students. I am very grateful that my team saw my potential and decided to nurture me to be who I am now.

“This is also why the Butland and University of Auckland Awards mean so much to me, as it recognises that my teaching has value here, and also for the CertHSc team, reaffirming that we are doing a good job for students and staff. It can be hard to appreciate the good work we do when we are really focused on teaching; teachers can be harsh to themselves as they continuously reflect on how to be better. A regular pat on the back would really change the scene,” she says.

“A student said I gave her the impression that I am passionate about teaching and I think this is a true description. Although I may not be overly passionate about chemistry, which could be a good thing since this means I can relate to more students, I am passionate about making the learning process fun.

“Recently I have been thinking about assessments, in particular the mismatch between their purpose and the level of pain students experience associated with them. How can you get students focused on the purpose of assessments while reducing the pain? I think the recent changes in teaching and learning are working towards this, with the focus moving more towards the facilitation of learning.”

“There are many great people within the faculty who are leading this change. Just to mention a few of my inspirations to thank: Anuj Bhargava, John Egan, Sonia Fonua and Angela Tsai. These are my secret role models.

“My next step is to do further study in education/teaching and learning, work on my Masters and hopefully complete a PhD, so I can contribute to educational research.  If I look back, I still remember the first day I walked into Tāmaki campus for my job interview. I was really nervous then, but not anymore. It has become my second home and it is sad to see it go.”