05 Aug 2010
A teacher of Māori language, tikanga and Māori performing arts at the University of Waikato is the winner of an inaugural Ako Aotearoa award for excellence in tertiary teaching in the Kaupapa Māori category.
Te Kahautu Maxwell, a senior lecturer at Waikato’s School of Māori and Pacific Development, and departmental head of Aka Tikanga, is one of 11 winners of the national teaching excellence awards, presented at a ceremony in Wellington this week.
Funded by the Tertiary Education Commission, the awards have been running since 2001, but it’s the first year a new category of award has been added to recognise the contribution of tertiary teachers in a kaupapa Māori context.
Mr Maxwell said he accepted the award on behalf of all academics at the University of Waikato.
“This award helps profile our Māori distinctiveness at the University of Waikato,” he said. “In accepting, I want to acknowledge my predecessors Wharehuia Milroy, Hirini Melbourne, Tīmoti Kāretu, Tamati Reedy and all my mentors that have been part of my development as an academic.”
A highly acclaimed orator and kapa haka composer and performer, Mr Maxwell brings real authenticity to the classroom, and is equally at home teaching in English and Te Reo Māori.
“I like to empower students as the architects of their own destiny,” he said. “I bring to the classroom life experience from my own upbringing. I was raised by my elders who demanded high standards and excellence in everything one does in life.”
Mr Maxwell grew up on the East Coast, and is affiliated to Te Whakatōhea, Ngāi Tai, Te Whānau-a-Apanui, Ngāti Awa, Tūhoe, Ngāti Porou and Ngāti Maniapoto. He is a tohunga of Te Haahi Ringatū, and a licensed Māori language interpreter and translator.
As part of his teaching, he creates real-life situations for his students to practise their learning – whether it be delivering an oration on the marae or composing and performing a kapa haka programme in public.
“I’ve got a background in traditional Māori performing arts, and I sit on the Te Matatini National Kapa Haka Festival board and the Te Waka Toi Arts Board of Creative New Zealand, so students expect a high standard of delivery and content,” he said.
Mr Maxwell’s reputation as a teacher has also attracted a steady stream of non-Māori students. International students come to his classes to gain a better appreciation of Māori performing arts and an insight into the Māori world view.
“In my classes I have to relate to different groups of students, providing them with a conducive learning environment, a place where they are comfortable and that encourages learning,” he said. “I’m very serious about setting goals for our students, but I also add lots of humour to my lectures.”
Another University of Waikato academic, Dr Alison Campbell from the Department of Biological Sciences, also received a teaching excellence award. Each award includes a $20,000 grant to be used to develop the recipients’ teaching.