Hannah Simmonds

Hannah Simmonds

Introduce yourself and tell us what you do for a job?

He uri tēnei nō Raukawa ki te Kaokaoroa o Patetere. Ko Ngāti Huri te hapū, Ko Pikitu te marae.

Kei Whakatāne au e noho ana, me tōku hoa rangatira me a māua tamariki e toru.

I work for Ngā Kura ā Iwi o Aotearoa, supporting kura and their students by developing and implementing initiatives for students. These initiatives include academic programmes, sporting opportunities and health and wellbeing support.

Tell us about your pathway from school to where you are now.

At high school, my favourite subject was chemistry! So I went to Waikato University to study science. I loved science but I was passionate about rangatahi Māori and studied to become a high school teacher. I had never seen a Māori science teacher so I wanted to show our kids it was possible. One of the challenges was that I was always the only Māori woman in all my lectures and research spaces and eventually one of only a few Māori teachers at my first high school teaching job. This made me determined to help our rangatahi Māori see their potential, particularly in the sciences.

I’ve lived overseas and taught in different countries, and when I returned to New Zealand I worked as a lab technician, a teacher, a Professional Learning and Development facilitator and a researcher. All these experiences helped reinforce the importance of cultural identity and te reo as key factors for success for our kids.

I started my current role two-and-a-half years ago and I have the best job in the world because I can be innovative, support our kura Māori, and I still get to teach rangatahi.

My role models are those pioneers in Māori education who fought hard for things like kōhanga reo, kura kaupapa, wharekura and wānanga so that our kids have access to their reo, tikanga and mātauranga.

What’s the most challenging part of your job, and what is the most rewarding?

The most challenging part of my job is thinking about how to do things differently to ensure our Māori kids and communities are served well by the education system. We have an opportunity to be innovative and create new ways for our kids and kura to access learning. This is both a challenge and an exciting part of my job!

The most rewarding part of my job is being with rangatahi from all across Aotearoa as they participate in one of our new initiatives and seeing them thrive, connect to other rangatahi from different kura, and lead the way through their deep connections to who they are, their reo and their communities.

What’s something most people don’t know about your line of work?

I think most people are unaware of what our organisation does. Outside of that, they probably don’t know we all work from home – we have no head office, we all live in different parts of the country and work remotely. This is a flexible way of working but can sometimes be isolating. So we are lucky that we get to have regular wānanga with kids and other colleagues so we can keep connected.

What’s something you wish you knew when you were making your career decisions?

That when you have to decide what to do at the end of high school, it’s not fixed for ever and ever amen! I’ve changed my job many times, I’ve taken opportunities in different fields of work. You can change what you do as you get older and experience new things … the main thing is WHAT ARE YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT?

Why did you sign up to be an Inspiring the Future role model?

I wanted rangatahi Māori, particularly girls, to see that they can do anything that they’re passionate about. I want our rangatahi to see how important their Māoritanga is to their pathways and success. I remember when I was at school, it was rare to see Māori role models … I want to give our kids now a different experience.

What did you enjoy most about the Inspiring the Future event – or was there a standout moment?

I’ve only had one online event so far, but I really value the chance to talk with kids from across the motu. It’s always great to see what their aspirations are and to maybe be able to provide them with some guidance or inspiration.


What would you say to anyone thinking about signing up to be a role model?

Kia kaha! Our kids need to see role models from every walk of life, from every corner of Aotearoa and the world. If they can see themselves and their own passions reflected, they will know that anything is possible.