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International teaching . . . Edna McCulloch Kindergarten teachers Sue Mareta-Ria (left), Sarah Gordon and Gillian Rossiter spend time with pupils at an international school in Tonga. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Teachers from an Oamaru kindergarten have returned home after an educational trip to Tonga.

Sarah Gordon, Sue Mareta-Ria and Gillian Rossiter, from Edna McCulloch Kindergarten, were given the opportunity to experience life in a different culture by visiting and teaching at preschools in Tonga.

The teachers have been buzzing since returning from the islands.

Mrs Gordon said the experience turned out like nothing any of the teachers could have imagined.

“It was absolutely amazing,” she said.

The purpose of the trip was to allow the teachers to immerse themselves in a different culture so it would benefit the growing number of Pasifika children attending Edna McCulloch Kindergarten.

The trip was made possible after the teachers were granted funds by the Joyce Barns Travel Trust.

“Actually being there and experiencing everything at first hand was the best professional development we could’ve done,” Mrs Gordon said.

While in Tonga, the teachers were joined by Api Fifita, a prominent member of the Oamaru Tongan community, and stayed with Mrs Fifita’s family.

“They treated us like royalty – we were absolutely blown away.”

Staying with the Tongan family also allowed the teachers to understand the traditions and customs of the family hierarchy, Mrs Gordon said.

Mrs Fifita, who is involved with preschools in Tonga, also acted as a guide and language interpreter for the teachers.

The highlight of the trip was when they got the opportunity to teach at three early childhood centres.

Spending time at the preschools was fascinating for Mrs Gordon because they operated differently from those in New Zealand.

“It was pretty amazing, really. The expectations of the 2- and 3-year-olds are quite high.”

Mrs Gordon believed the trip had made a profound impact on the teachers.

“What we’ve really cherished is understanding the role of the church in our Tongan children’s lives and how we can bring that into their education,” she said.