“The relationships they get in the classroom, and out in the environment, are so important for their learning.”
Another feature of Mark’s classrooms is the Māori concept of manaakitanga, or reciprocal hospitality and respect.
A concept that’s central to New Zealand culture, manaakitanga places strong value on each student's personal background and ideas.
“Manaakitanga to me means sharing and collaborating with your arms open,” Mark says.
“I believe the New Zealand education system is unique because teachers focus a lot on the relationships we have with our students. Here, we give students more opportunities for one-on-one."
“I encourage teamwork and a sense of family and belonging in my classes and I take personal interest in the lives of my students. In that sense, I'm more than just a teacher.
“I guess that's the Kiwi way.”
Mark uses te reo Māori (the Māori language) in his classroom every day, and so do his students.
“They'll say ‘kia ora’ [hello] to me rather than ‘guten Tag’. It's a wonderful connection.”
He says he enjoys watching international students thrive in a country that gives them the skills and experiences to prepare them for a better future.
“It's wonderful to see them get involved with all the amazing opportunities, from diving to swimming to socialising and living with another family. Those sorts of things certainly change our international students.”
Some of Mark’s students have been inspired to go on to study and work in marine biology and oceanography. Students like these are, he says, our future leaders.
“When they’re the decision-makers, their actions are going to impact on the planet for the next thousand years.”
Watch Mark's video to learn more.