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Jess Hemi

Early Childhood Education (ECE) Lecturer

Jess Hemi  - Early Childhood Education (ECE) Lecturer

After two decades of working with tamariki, Early Childhood Education (ECE) Lecturer Jess Hemi (Ngāti Raukawa, Te Iwi Morehu, Ngati Apa Ki te Ra Tō, Ngāpuhi) decided it was time to become formally qualified and soon found herself passing on her experience and knowledge to the next generation of ECE teachers.

Reflecting back on her journey, Jess said that she had never thought that she would actually want to be a teacher.

"I was asked to work in special education at a local kindergarten and I discovered that I really enjoyed working with kids with behavioural issues (or what some kaiako (teachers) call superpowers) and finding ways for them to be included in the centre."

"I knew that being qualified would enable me to be paid what I deserved with my skills and experience, so I went to UCOL to see what the opportunities were. I came down to campus to enquire about the course here and they sent me up to the classroom for a look. The lecturer there gave me the forms and signed me up on the spot!"

Her extensive experience in the industry put Jess in a unique position to begin teaching Level 2 and 3 ECE Akonga (learners) while she finished her studies.

"A month after starting my diploma, my lecturer told me there was a teaching job coming up and they thought I'd be a good fit. I started out supporting our young ākonga doing the U-Skills ECE course (Level 2) and I finished my diploma while I was working."

Jess says her journey at UCOL has been incredibly rewarding.

"In my first year teaching here I had a group of 10 Level 2 ECE ākonga. Some of those Akonga are now in Level 6 and out working in the industry. They carried on because they were so inspired in their first year, in my first-ever class - how amazing is that!"

Jess has continued to teach all levels of ECE across the UCOL Manawatū, Whanganui, and Wairarapa campuses and helped to put together the proposal to provide the full Bachelor's degree at UCOL Whanganui.

"I was part of creating the conceptual framework for the ECE degree. My focus is on te reo Māori competency that our kaiako need to have when they're out teaching our babies. I wanted to make sure that right from the start, we have the proper content in our course so that when they go out teaching, we have a respectful relationship with centres, iwi, and our whānau, and so that all tamariki get to have some kind of cultural experience.

"Te reo Māori is the language I shared with my father, and continue sharing with my son and community. I worked at a total immersion ECE in Whanganui for six years before I came to UCOL so I know how important it is to make sure we get things like basic pronunciation right."

"In our degree, ākonga have to achieve Level 3 Te reo Māori and Tikanga Māori competency. Sometimes they ask why they have to do it and we talk about the importance of pronouncing our names correctly. Lots of Māori families have gone back to their ancestors' names. By learning how to pronounce their full Māori and Pasifika names and pronouncing them properly, we're honouring these tamariki and giving them the mana they deserve."

Jess highlights the huge amount of academic and pastoral support available for UCOL ākonga studying towards their Bachelor of Teaching (ECE).

"At UCOL Whanganui you're not just a number - the lecturers know who you are and when you're out on placement in your ECE centres we have mentor teachers available too so there's always somebody you can talk to if you have concerns. Not to mention, all the ākonga support that's available. "

"I'm always here for support too - I've been in your shoes, I know how you're feeling, and I know assessments can be hard. So let's talk about it, let's make a plan. My door is always open."

Find out about the UCOL Te Pūkenga Te Tohu Paetahi Akoranga: Bachelor of Teaching (Early Childhood Education) programme

Discover more about UCOL Te Pūkenga Early Childhood Education Programmes

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