The teacher of Samoa’s first online school, Papali’i Momoe Malietoa von Reiche, said her teaching will help give students a sense of identity needed to succeed in further study.
Launched on Monday, Apia International School is a correspondence high school, where students can enrol in overseas high schools and complete their studies online.
Online classes are complemented with in-person classes in sport, creative arts and Samoan studies, and Papali’i has been recruited to teach, which she said is a privilege.
“I have a lot of other things that I do in my life but they specifically asked for me to teach here so maybe I can serve some purpose,” she said.
Papali’i’s teaching values are about ensuring students feel connected to their heritage.
She said making that teaching contemporary, in line with new digital learning, is important. Being “comfortable in your own skin” is an avenue to greater learning.
“I don’t want a curriculum that is too archaic to follow, and too stuck in the heaviness of culture,” she said.
“There is nothing wrong with our culture, it’s the way you look at it. Our culture is a beautiful culture but we have to make it accessible to children.”
Without getting into politics, Papali’i said Samoan studies can empower students to be better citizens.
“As long as the children know where they come from, what space they serve in this universe or in this environment, they have to know their role as Samoans in Samoa.”
As for her actual teaching, Papali’i said she likes to keep it simple. Her lessons are aimed at basic communication, especially to empower non-Samoan speaking Samoan.
For many children around the country who grew up speaking English as their first language, learning their mother tongue is essential, she said.
“You have to make them speak Samoan again.”
For students at Apia International School, her Samoan Studies classes will be contemporary and tuned into a more digital age, Papali’i said.
As she waits to receive further instructions, she is devising a curriculum that works for children who learn fast, and learn online.
“I have to make it more contemporary to suit this time, to suit children who are learning here,” she said.
“I don’t want Samoan to be dragged right back to the beginning of time, we have to learn Samoan as it is today.”
The school has two days of orientation on Thursday and Friday to go over internet safety guidelines, and how to work with online teachers before classes begin on Monday.
Board chair and founding member Fiona Ey, who has enrolled her own daughter in the school, said there are still places available for interested parents and children of high school age.