Queen’s Birthday Honours – Ms Barbara Ala’alatoa MNZM
Ms Barbara Ala’alatoa of Mãngere Bridge was made Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her outstanding service to education. As a New Zealand-born Samoan, she lives by the code that teachers have the ability to change lives.
Ms Ala’alatoa has always led from the front, and feels lucky to have held many diverse roles in the education sector. Her passion for learning has placed her in positions as the chair of the Education Council of Aotearoa NZ, chair of Te Aho o te Kura Pounamu, lead principal for the Maungakiekie Kāhui Ako and member of the Tomorrow’s Schools Review Independent Taskforce. She is also part of the Auckland Primary Principals Association, and remains active with the Pacific Principals Association.
After the initial shock of hearing about the award, she says she was honoured to receive the recognition, and acknowledges those who have served beside her throughout her career. During her 30-plus years as an educator she has accumulated a huge number of accomplishments, but it is her position as principal that tops her list. She says, “The highlight of my career would have to be my role at Sylvia Park School. Amazing students and families, and just the most inspirational staff I have ever had the privilege of serving alongside. As well as that, the warmest, most sincere greetings by kids every single morning – who wouldn’t love that!”
At Sylvia Park School, she helped design Mutukaroa, a unique home-school partnership which funded a full-time role for a teacher to spend time with parents to discuss their child’s learning. This resulted in significant improvements in students’ achievements, and its success saw the initiative expanded to 100 schools across New Zealand.
She says, “One of the biggest keys for education is about being relentlessly hopeful and optimistic about what we can do as educators and learning organisations. There is no substitute for a learning-focused relationship between student and teacher. Ensuring that students have an education that is crafted and curated for them ensures that they will be engaged and interested in their learnings.”
Ms Ala’alatoa has lived with her family in Mãngere Bridge for most of her life, and holds the area close to her heart. She continues to be inspired by children and their capacity to imagine without limits, their relentless optimism and their appreciation of the potential of a new day. She believes this is something we could all learn from.
She says, “I want to give a special shout-out to my family. My mum, who also believed in the power and importance of education, my husband who endures the many times I work late or work away from home, and my wonderful son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren who just provide joy beyond compare.”