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Joan Makisi

Joan (Niue) is a school teacher at Avalon Intermediate School in Lower Hutt and alumnus of the Science Teaching Leadership Programme.

Joan MakisiWhat do you do on an average work day?

Fakaalofa lahi atu, greetings to you all. My name is Joan Makisi and I am of Niuean heritage from the beautiful village of Mutalau (Ululauta) I have been in New Zealand for over 50 years with my family who emigrated to this land for education, employment and family reasons.

I am a school teacher at Avalon Intermediate School in Lower Hutt, a job that have given me a lot of enjoyment, opportunity and memorable events.

On an average work day, I am at school by 7.30am. I teach a composite class of year 7 and year 8 students and I love the interaction with my students.

Work usually finishes at around 5.30pm, after marking, photocopying, attending a meeting and generally getting ready for the next day.

I get home at around 6pm and after dinner and time with my family, it is back to doing schoolwork again.

What did you study at school? And after high school?

At college I loved every subject but was particularly keen on the Arts, Performance, Kapa Haka, Te Reo Māori and Social Studies. I also loved PE lessons as well because it was great to learn catching, throwing and batting skills.

I attended Victoria University, the first person in my family, to study education. I also attended Wellington Teacher’s College. It took four years of study, sacrifice (I had four children at the time), and hard work to achieve a Co-Joint Bachelor of Education and Diploma of Teaching (Primary).

I can still recall the overwhelming feeling of pride, success and joy receiving my degree in front of my parents and children. The hard yards of trying to juggle my duties as a mother, a student and putting food on the table is something I will never forget. I share this because anything is possible if you put your mind to it. I was very fortunate to have a supportive family and church members who helped to look after my children after school or watch them as they got off the bus in the mornings going to school.

Joan at Zealandia

Was your study directly related to what you do now?

Yes, absolutely.

What would you like to share with young women who are thinking about their career choices right now?

I would say to them, stay focused on your goals, always seek support along the way in terms of guidance and advice, and stop to celebrate the successes along your journey.

Stay faithful to your beliefs and use the opportunity to learn, read and learn some more from people around you.

What are some of your career highlights so far?

I've had the opportunity to lead a team of colleagues in a syndicate at school, as well as plan and organise team and school wide events such as a school camp, a Polyfestival event and a sports events. It's been great to have that acknowledgment of my leadership skills in my work.

A more recent highlight was being part of the selection for the Science Teaching Leadership Programme where I was hosted by Zealandia Sanctuary Trust in Wellington. This programme was great as it enabled me to build on my skills and knowledge of science and how science is an awesome avenue for student engagement and achievement.

Joan and friend at Zealandia

Why do you believe engaging in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) is important to New Zealand?

I think that engagement in STEM is very important because it is an opportunity for learning about the world around us, having an understanding of how things work, and finding out about things in a really practical, fun and exciting way.

Why is it important to have more women working in STEM?

I think it’s important for more women to work in STEM to acknowledge their capabilities, thinking and perspective about science driven issues, topics and events.

Women are excellent role models and to participate in STEM would encourage and support young men and women on their learning journeys.

Joan with her family

Joan is of Niuean heritage from the beautiful village of Mutalau (Ululauta). She has been in New Zealand for over 50 years with her family who emigrated to this land for education, employment and family reasons.

This profile is part of our series of girls and women in STEM.

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