Oriana (German Samoan) is Assistant Principal and technology teacher at Papakura Intermediate. She is passionate about learning, travelling and not becoming a ‘dinosaur’ in the classroom.
What do you do on an average work day? He aha tō mahi ia rā, ia rā?
I teach technology at Papakura Intermediate. My areas of teaching are coding, robotics and STEAM [science, technology, engineering, arts, maths]. The tech team and I teach client schools as well as our own students once a week for 90mins.
I am also the Assistant Principal so I work closely within the Leadership Team to support our kaiako (teachers) and students.
I'm the ‘Wellbeing Officer' in our school too, and love to think of innovative ways to promote wellbeing across our team.
What did you study at school? And after high school? I ako koe i te aha i te kura? I aha koe whai muri i te kura tuarua?
At high school I studied Japanese, art history, drama, English, classics, and absolutely LOVED human biology. They didn’t offer it in Year 12 so I chose to take biology.
At the end of Year 13, I went to Japan on a two week exchange and it thoroughly opened my eyes to a new part of the world. After high school I decided to study something that made me happy, without stressing about what job it could lead to - so I chose Japanese. I completed my degree in Japanese and managed to fit in some short teaching contracts in Jeonju, South Korea and Wuhan, China before living and teaching in Japan. I wanted to continue to travel while making money and teaching English was the ticket. I then lived in Japan for 3 years teaching English at Junior High School.
When I felt like my time living there was up, I decided to return to Aotearoa to study Digital Media because I wanted to explore my interest in cinematography and editing. I really just like to study and learn about what interests me in different developmental points of my life.
I didn’t get into teaching until I was close to 30. Both of my parents are teachers so I know the realities of ‘teacher life’ and in a way, resisted it for a while. But the different paths I took while travelling always led to opportunities to teach, which I enjoyed.
Was your study directly related to what you do now? He ōrite tāu mahi i taua wā ki tāu mahi o ināianei?
For the most part, not directly. My studies in teaching and what I learned in my PostGrad qualification at the MindLab are directly related, for sure.
I have really lived on the philosophy of doing what makes me happy, which has led to where I am today.
What would you like to share with young women who are thinking about their career choices right now? He aha āu kupu hei āwhina i ngā rangatahi wahine e whakaaro ana ki tā rātou mahi mō te wā kei mua i te aroaro?
It’s great to have dreams and aspirations - a vision and drive definitely help in achieving those. But if you’re not sure what to do in the next phase of your life, studying or not, choose what makes you happy.
Travelling is an incredible gateway to independence, deeper learning about self and new experiences.
Also, don’t ‘pigeonhole’ yourself. As you learn and experience more, your interests grow and so do your areas of learning, so be open to further learning down the road - it doesn’t have to stop at your diploma / degree and it doesn’t always have to start at university.
If what you’re studying, learning or experiencing makes you happy, a career in that area will never feel like a ‘job’ and you’ll have fun while working!
What are some of your career highlights so far? He aha ngā painga o te umanga e whāia ana e koe?
Highlights include learning how to plan, teach and organise engaging and authentic Inquiry outcomes as part of an Inquiry curriculum team. I’ve loved supporting students to be confidently prepared and motivated to share their Inquiry learning with their whānau and school community.
I’ve also really loved teaching alongside some incredibly talented teachers who have made it a fun space to work.
Why do you believe engaging in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) is important to New Zealand? He aha a STEM (pūtaiao, hangarau, pūkaha, pāngarau) e whai take ana ki Aotearoa?
Aotearoa prides itself on ‘Kiwi Ingenuity’ and that’s really what STEM is about - noticing a problem, asking how it could be better and having a good go at making something new or improved.
I like to think of STEM as this era’s "three Rs" - you can learn a great deal of base knowledge in all STEM areas and choose your choice of direction from there because it is so diverse.
New Zealanders are celebrated for performing successfully in a global context - and STEM is a great area to continue this.
Why is it important to have more women working in STEM? He aha te take me whai wāhi ngā wāhine ki STEM?
Like Queen Bey says ‘who run the world?’ Women have so much to offer in the work space in regards to diversity, problem-solving, innovation, creativity, resilience and motivation. We like to challenge the way things are done to make it more efficient.
Women are needed in STEM spaces because if new innovations are only ever created from one male perspective, it means we’re never getting the whole picture.
Unfortunately, currently there are far too many dire examples of what can happen when women aren’t represented, when our views, experiences and voices aren’t taken seriously. This is why representation, diversity and gender equity in STEM spaces are so important for economic growth.
Oriana is Assistant Principal and Technology teacher at Papakura Intermediate. She is passionate about learning, travelling and not becoming a ‘dinosaur’ in the classroom. She is German Samoan, her village in Samoa is Satuimalufilufi and she has lived in Māngere Bridge, Auckland, most of her life. In her spare time she loves to discover new places in remote parts of Aotearoa with her partner.
This profile is part of our series of girls and women in STEM.
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