Frank Tasi advises young people considering a career in teaching that “if you are in it for the money, don’t bother. But if you are wanting to influence the next generation to make a change, definitely pursue it.”
At 33, Frank’s been appointed Deputy Principal of a Tokoroa school after four years’ experience as a classroom teacher. “I love teaching. I wouldn’t have any other job… unless I was an All Black.
“Teaching has provided my family and I with so much. There’s a lot of give and take, but what you receive in the end is greater than what you give.
“The vast majority of teachers I’ve met are in the profession for the right reasons: to share, uplift and inspire the next generation.”
Frank is grateful for the teaching he received in Otara, now Flatbush. One teacher stood out. Mrs Vimla Sewpershad was his secondary school maths teacher. Frank failed the end of year school maths exam just before he sat his School Certificate. “I was quite disheartened and depressed.”
Mrs Sewpershad called him over and started bouncing a tennis ball. “She asked me what I thought it was. I said, ‘A tennis ball.’ She replied that it was the quality of ‘resilience – the ability to bounce back’.” That lesson stayed with Frank. He bounced back and passed School Certificate maths. He now uses the tennis ball analogy in his own teaching. “I am so grateful for that lesson and for her.”
Frank came to teaching via a two-year volunteer stint on a church mission in Wellington and the South Island. “I learnt I had the knack for teaching.”
His “amazing wife” did some groundwork and found out that the University of Auckland offered a teaching degree at Manukau. For Frank, the Manukau base was what clinched it. “I was born and raised in South Auckland. I was a home boy. I feared going out into Central. Studying at Manukau really fitted well with my family life.
“I am so grateful for the University of Auckland opening up teaching opportunities in Manukau and making it easier for those of us who would prefer not to travel into town to participate in receiving the education we need to be a teacher.”
He loved the course content, the lecturers and the small whānau-like atmosphere. “The cohort in my year of 76 students was small and intimate. We really built good relationships.” Studying was enjoyable for him. “I’ve met and learned from so many other teachers. Learning from them is how I developed into the teacher I am now.”
He stayed on to complete an honours year, then taught for a year at Rowandale School in Manurewa, South Auckland. A job came up in Tokoroa, 2-3 hours south of Auckland, and he embraced the challenge. After three years at Tokoroa North, he was appointed Deputy Principal at David Henry School, also in Tokoroa.
The school has a lot of potential “but wasn’t considered a school of choice”. According to Frank, although the students and staff were amazing, the school was often overlooked.
The goal for him and the school’s new Principal and their “brilliant staff is to strive to help the children become what they are destined to be. “We’re definitely making inroads.” The roll has grown from 65 kids to 86 kids. A few families whose children Frank had previously taught switched over to his new school. Others were influenced by an article about Frank in the local newspaper and other articles that celebrated the successes of the school.
The school feels so strongly about the quality of education it has to offer that it has opened its doors to local families. “We say, come and have a look. Try it for a day. If your child loves it, it’s up to you as a family. We’re an open book. We have confidence in the school and staff that parents will want to choose the school after seeing it.”
Frank’s own rewards come from seeing the children he’s taught grow up to fulfil their potential. Recently he saw a boy he’d taught play as a drummer in a band celebrating Cook Island language week. “It tugged at my heartstrings to see him progressing and turn into this talented young man. Moments like these assert my commitment to the profession.”