Finalist for Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Award

Mere Berryman was teaching at Mt Maunganui Intermediate when she became concerned at the disparity between the participation and achievement of Māori students and others. “So I made the decision to leave classroom teaching and become a researcher, to find some answers.”

Starting out as a researcher didn’t come easy, but after six months Ross Wilson, the then CEO of Specialist Education Services, provided the funding that saw this pathway begin to be realised.

Another important step was enrolling in the Faculty of Education at Waikato and completing bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees, all the while adding to her research portfolio.

Working initially with Māori elders, Professor Emeritus Ted Glynn and others, their first research contract, secured in 1995, was to develop ways to help schools collaborate with whānau to better manage learning and behaviour in both settings. Emeritus Professor Russell Bishop was asked to review this project and he and Mere continued to work together on a number of projects including the development of Te Kotahitanga.

Over 15 years of iterative research and development, this initiative supported teachers to improve Māori students’ learning and achievement through the provision of culturally responsive and relational pedagogy.

Professor Emerita Christine Sleeter from California State University, Monterey Bay wrote, “Te Kotahitanga was a gem of a program from an international perspective, not only for its sound theoretical basis, its well-conceptualized model of teacher professional development, and its positive impact on Māori student outcomes, but also for its consistently wise use of research.”

Most recently Mere directed another Ministry of Education funded initiative, Kia Eke Panuku: Building on Success. This system-based, strategic change-management approach required all participants to critically review their evidence of Māori students’ participation and achievement, to be open to the views of others, and to make the necessary personal and professional changes to ensure Māori students enjoy and achieve educational success as Māori. A consortiuum, led by the University of Waikato with the University of Auckland and Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi saw this work adopted by 95 secondary schools throughout New Zealand.

The winner of the New Zealander of the Year award will be announced at the New Zealander of the Year Awards Gala in Auckland on 22nd February, 2017.