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Unitec’s Yo Heta-Lensen named one of New Zealand’s top tertiary teachers


Yo Heta-Lensen (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Hine), Senior Lecturer in Unitec’s School of Community Studies, has been named one of New Zealand’s top tertiary teachers by Ako Aotearoa on behalf of the Minister of Education.

 Yo is one of five award winners in the Kaupapa Māori category of the National Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards (TTEA) 2020; the first win for Unitec in the Kaupapa Māori category.  It’s also the greatest number of Kaupapa Māori teachers to be recognised in any one year since the category was introduced ten years ago. 
As a Sustained Excellence award winner, Yo will also be in the running for the top award, the Prime Minister’s Supreme Award, which will be announced at a later date.
The panel of judges said that Yo’s work in early childhood teacher education - embedded in Kaupapa Māori – is “motivational, transformative and empowering”.   
They also said that, “Yo creates learning environments to enable leadership potential to flourish through relational teaching and the principle of ako. One course she designed, ‘Ngā Kete Manaakitanga’ – helping student teachers’ develop their competency in te reo Māori and tikanga Māori - has had a profound impact on learners.”  One of her students commented, “Through [this] course … I gained a more holistic understanding of who I am…” 

“I’m thrilled to receive an award that honours Kaupapa Māori,” said Yo.  “I’m dedicated to transformational education and know that there is still much work to do to achieve an education paradigm that supports the mana, mauri, wairua of all our ancestors, our mokopuna and of our whenua.

“Every time I teach, I learn something new; that’s the benefit and great privilege of being a teacher, and I'm humbled to be able to play a role in supporting learners to want to know more.  Ehara taku toa he toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini.”

“Anyone who knows Yo will know her enthusiasm, her aroha for her students and her dedicated commitment to living our Te Noho Kotahitanga values in every aspect of her mahi,” said Merran Davis, interim chief executive, Unitec Institute of Technology.

For more information about Yo Heta-Lensen’s recognition, see here.