Natasha Koia is an inaugural recipient of the Kia Ita Taura Whiri/Nga Pae o te Maramatanga scholarship for her Masters' thesis on the definition of quality in a Kaupapa Māori early childhood learning context. She graduated with her Master of Education degree from the University of Waikato.
Natasha Koia wants Ngāti Porou children to know their unique dialect and customs.
She says, "If you don't love the language in your heart, mind and soul, despite the financial resources despite or free language classes, you can't pursue this path."
In 2009, Koia established Te Puna Reo o Puhi Kaiti, a teacher-led, full immersion te reo Māori ECE centre.
"My thoughts go back to my elders who raised me. Through my upbringing, the love and passion for the unique dialect and customs of Ngāti Porou was instilled," says Koia.
She helped Te Parekereke Mokopuna o Hiruharama to become a licensed ECE center in 2015.
She says, "Only a few are passionate about teaching the children, so we need to develop the teachers, ourselves as teachers as well as the families."
This year, Koia took on the role as Kaiako Matua at Te Puna Reo o Raparapaririki ki Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Waiū o Ngati Porou, which is attached to the Kura Kaupapa where Natasha's tamariki both attend.
"When my eldest daughter was born, I already had my high school teaching degree but I changed to teach her and the other children," says Koia
She hopes Ngāti Porou descendants will return to the East Coast and help sustain their language.