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Source: Eastern Institute of Technology – Tairāwhiti

8 mins ago

Rebecca Clarke with the Te Pou Toko o te Tau medal.

For EIT senior lecturer Rebecca Clarke 2020 ended with a success, or, more precisely, a series of successes. First she received the Most Inspiring Teacher Award for her work with the Lion Foundation Young Enterprise Scheme students. Then EIT presented her with the Overall Teaching Excellence Award. The grand finale came when she was named as a Te Pou Toko o te Tau – Kiwibank New Zealand Local Hero of the Year medallist, an award that recognises everyday people who are doing extraordinary things in their local hapori – community.

Rebecca says she was surprised by her nomination and still struggles to believe it. “Honestly, I just get up every day and be Rebecca, and do the best at being Rebecca. It doesn’t fit into a job description and it’s not a 9 to 5 thing.” The nomination highlighted that Rebecca never blows her own trumpet and that it was time to acknowledge her hard work.

Rebecca is not only a much-loved EIT lecturer, Māori mentor, and Young Enterprise Scheme facilitator, but she also does a tremendous job for the community. Rebecca serves on the Board of the Women’s Refuge – Family VIP Services and the Board of Dress for Success, an internationally recognised organisation that supports low-income women to find employment, learn interview skills, and provides them with professional clothing.

“My house is like a train station. People just come to sort out their lives over a cup of coffee. It helps that I’m the glass-is-half-full-kinda person,” smiles Rebecca. Rebecca can relate to people’s challenges because she herself has spent “a life making lemonade out of lemons”, as she puts it.

Rebecca grew up in Wairoa and had her first son when she was 16. With the help of friends and whānau she managed to pull through and finish high school. She was 18, when she moved to Napier to study a Bachelor of Business Studies at EIT. At 21 she gave birth to her daughter. In the meantime, the former principal of Wairoa College, who had supported her throughout her college years, had moved on to Karamu High School and offered her a job as a teacher. So Rebecca started to teach maths, business and computing while completing her degree.

After graduating, Rebecca was hired on the spot as a Māori mentor for the faculty. She was the first Māori mentor of the institute. In year two it grew into an academic accounting lecturer role. Her motto is “talking and time”. Rebecca says that listening to someone doesn’t cost her anything but can have the biggest impact.

In December, Rebecca welcomed her first grandchild, Thea. “This beautiful baby brought 26 years of struggle around. When I look at her, I know that it was all worth it.”