Salamo Sooalo’s faith and love for music brought him to Aotearoa from Samoa. Here, he started his journey to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a teacher.
An experienced musician, Salamo coordinated church choirs around Samoa in the early 1990s and 1996 moved to Taitoko, Levin to lead the town’s Samoan Catholic Choir.
While music is one of his passions, Salamo always dreamed of being a teacher. His father was a school principal, and Salamo was inspired by how he built relationships within the community and supported his students and teaching team.
“My father’s passion for teaching empowered and encouraged me to become a teacher,” says Salamo.
“I chose to do Early Childhood Education because I believe young children have the purest hearts. I love interacting with children and being part of their learning development. Children also can learn their culture, language, and identity through music.”
After hearing good things about UCOL from friends and family, Salamo enrolled in the NZ Certificate in Early Childhood Education and Care (Level 3) at UCOL Horowhenua and followed it up with the Level 4 certificate.
These programmes gave Salamo a good insight into the development and behaviour of young children. They deepened his understanding of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the foundation of New Zealand’s early learning curriculum.
“Studying Early Childhood Education at UCOL has enriched me physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I have learnt a lot about diversity and different ways to see the world.”
Salamo enjoyed the practical experience he gained at Punahau Early Childhood Care Centre. The experience showed him what it’s like to work with children every day and how to create a learning environment appropriate for all cultures.
“At first, I was amazed to see tamariki speaking Te Reo. At Punahau I met great kaiako, students and their whanau. I enjoyed putting into practice what I learned at UCOL. I was immensely proud to use my teaching philosophy and personal approach while interacting with tamariki.”
“The experience helped me understand the interests of children and allowed me to prepare activities to enhance their thinking.”
Salamo took another step in his education journey the following year when he completed the NZ Diploma in Early Childhood Education and Care (Level 5). Salomo says it was a step up from the certificate programmes. Still, he had a great lecturer who made sure everyone understood the lessons and had fun in class.
“Studying the diploma deepened my knowledge of what was taught in the certificate programmes. One thing that stood out for me was our wānanga at Kauwhata Marae at Aorangi (Feilding). It was my first experience of a pōwhiri, and I got to learn about the process.”
Eventually, Salamo wants to establish a kindergarten that combines Faʻa Sāmoa (the ‘Samoan Way’ – language, customs, and culture) with the values of Te Tiriti o Waitangi in its teaching.
Salamo is among the 2236 students graduating across UCOL campuses. Due to the Traffic Light System, UCOL will be celebrating graduation a little differently this year. Fully vaccinated students will be collecting their graduation parchments from UCOL campuses. They will get an opportunity to have a small celebration with their family and friends, including hiring graduation gowns and taking professional photographs. Graduation parchment collection days are as follows:
Horowhenua: Thursday, 25 March 2022
Wairarapa: Monday, 28 March 2022
Manawatū: Wednesday, 6 April 2022
Whanganui: Friday, 8 April 2022