Looking for a meaningful path forward after completing his Bachelor of Arts degree in Wellington, our Early Childhood Education Lecturer at UCOL Te Pūkenga, Daniel Whitaker, discovered a rewarding career in Early Childhood Education (ECE)
"I started my tertiary education in philosophy and anthropology, but I wasn't sure where I wanted to go with it. I was trying to think of fulfilling ways to spend my time after my studies. I always enjoyed working with young children, so I decided to apply my knowledge to that sector and enrolled in a Postgraduate Diploma in Early Childhood Education."
After becoming qualified, Daniel spent the better part of a decade working as an ECE teacher. With a wealth of experience behind him, Daniel decided to move into the tertiary education space, working as a lecturer in the
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"I never planned to work in tertiary actually, it just emerged organically with my Postgraduate study. I felt like I could offer something there and saw it as a new challenge and next step.
"I think having a lot of practical experience is quite central to building a trusting relationship with ākonga (learners). I'm able to communicate the theory behind educational practices but ground the learning in my practical background. It's something that ākonga appreciate."
When looking at new roles, Daniel said he felt drawn to the kaupapa at UCOL.
"We take tikanga Māori and te ao Māori seriously here and it feels authentic. Our traditional Western model of communicating information is quite linear and based on the idea of the teacher being the holder of knowledge and the ākonga being the empty vessel. However, thinking about education through a culturally sensitive lens, or kaupapa Māori, challenges the idea of how we share power with ākonga.
"We're structured around two-day wananga pedagogy here, so there are lots of discussions and space for ākonga to bring their own perspectives into the learning. We also make an active effort to get to know our ākonga and understand their background and their stories.
"The way we approach learning here goes beyond just caring for or providing education, it's manaakitanga. I've experienced this at other tertiary institutions to varying degrees, but this is the first time I've been involved at this level. It's awesome."
When he started working at UCOL, Daniel said he really appreciated the sense of community.
"It's a small campus, which means there's an opportunity to form strong relationships and friendships here. On my first day, I remember walking around, meeting people, sitting in classes, getting to know everyone and I just felt really included and welcomed.
Daniel says his usual work week is pretty diverse, split between teaching, studying and research.
"I work a combination of two full days of teaching - where I lead and coordinate a course, then facilitate other courses led by other lecturers. Those two days a week are really intensive. I work in close relation with ākonga. On other days, I spend it researching content for the following week's classes, organising materials and PowerPoints, as well as one day for independent research."
Having completed his Master's degree in ECE, Daniel is now working on a doctoral thesis through Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington.
"I'm currently studying and working at UCOL at the same time. Having a day a week to do my own research is one of the reasons I was drawn to this position actually. I love that UCOL supports me to continue my own education journey."
Discover more about UCOL Te Pukenga Early Childhood Education Programmes