Theresa is the Education Director and Partnerships Lead at Pacific Kids' Learning, a social enterprise focused on creating values-driven and culturally responsive e-Learning resources for young learners. Her academic background is in international education and language teaching, having spent much of her life teaching in South Korea across different universities. Since moving to Australia, Theresa has been able to combine aspects of her life that she is deeply passionate about – culture, community, and education.
Theresa Tupuola-Sorenson, Executive Member
Theresa is a proud daughter of Sāmoa, born and raised in Māngere, Auckland, with parents hailing from the villages of Leulumoega Tuai, Nofoali'i and Saleimoa. Theresa and her family are blessed to live on the lands of the saltwater people of the Kombumerri clan on Yugambeh country, Gold Coast. She is a mother of two young girls, who have inspired much of what she does at Pacific Kids’ Learning. Additionally, Theresa contributes to community initiatives such as VASA, the largest performing arts program in the Gold Coast and the Waves Forward Pasifika program across various high schools.
On her passion for education, Theresa says the principles of equity and opportunity drive her: “Education is a way forward, but it was something my parents never had the privilege to explore,” she explains. And despite being the first in her family to pursue higher education, for Theresa, it was a major struggle on many levels. “There is much work to be done to decolonise the systemic barriers that limit minority cultures from thriving in educational and professional spaces.”
One of Theresa’s hopes for Pasifika education is empowering learners to bring their whole selves to learning spaces: “My hope is educational institutions create culturally-safe environments for Pasifika learners to thrive, and that curriculum design and instructional practices are culturally responsive to the needs of all learners”, she says. “I look forward to seeing education serve the collective rather than the individual. There needs to be increased awareness that for Pacific families, when one child graduates, this has the potential to create a significant shift in future outcomes for their village, which includes movement into professional pathways creating intergenerational wealth.”
And though an educator herself, Theresa’s biggest thanks remain saved for her fellow teachers: “Teachers who supported their students during the global pandemic must be commended for their grit and tenacity. Thank you for all that you do and continue to do to inspire and encourage your students - your resilience and tautua (service) during those tumultuous years are the leadership that kept many young people going. Fa’afetai mo la outou auaunaga (thank you for your service).