Day in the Life Series: John Po’oi

Setting up Breakfast Club, working with ORS funded tamariki, helping out with gardening and singing for church and family functions – all in a day’s work for John Po’oi, teacher aide at Papatoetoe South School. This series will highlight the incredible mahi done by our NZEI Te Riu Roa members.

Read More

We are back with a fresh collection of profiles on our vibrant community!

‘A Day in the Life’ will highlight the incredible mahi done by our NZEI Te Riu Roa members. It will show the reality of our educators who care for the tamariki of Aotearoa, and celebrate all the parts that make us a diverse and inspiring bunch!   

If you would like to see a colleague or yourself in this series, please get in touch with us at  or fill out this form! Thank you to those you’ve already nominated someone — we’re making our way through them.

Q1: Tell us about yourself?  

My name is Soane Paulo Po’oi, but a lot of people know me as John. I was born in Tonga but grew up here in Auckland. I attended school at St Therese School in Three Kings and went to two different high schools.  

From 2001 to 2006, I was involved in the ‘Atenisi Foundation for performing arts as the lead tenor whilst studying to get my Associate of Arts diploma and Bachelor of Arts. During this time, I had the privilege of singing opera excerpts and choral music from composers like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Giacomo Puccini, Gaetano Donizetti and Verdi. This led to tours to some parts of the Pacific, Australia and America. One of my highlights during this time was when King George Tupou the Fifth of Tonga asked me to be part of his assembly of musicians between 2010-2012.  

Singing is my passion —I used to be a member of Young Friends Opera New Zealand and was also involved with the Auckland Youth Choir. One of the joys of being a singer is appreciating the profound effects of being given a gift from God.  And so, I sing for church, family functions, and private events. I try to make use of my spare time by sharing my singing experience with people and teaching others how to sing.  

My journey to teaching started when I got called to teach at a local high school in Tonga. That is when my passion for teaching started.  At St Andrews High School I taught English, history, and music from 2009 to 2013. You didn’t need to be a registered teacher or have a teacher’s qualification; a university degree was enough. I decided to embark on a journey not only in the education sector, but also in other industries that involve looking after the wellbeing of the children.  

I’ve worked for different ministries in my life, and I can say that every job was rewarding and fun — such as being a tour guide between 2007 and 2013.  

Q2:  Biggest teacher/mentor growing up?

Professor Futa Helu. He was the founder and the director of ‘Atenisi University Institute. He taught me the classical Tongan style of singing and harmonisation. He also encouraged me and pushed me to pursue a career in singing focusing on classical music, namely, Italian opera. He is the Tongan philosopher, as I see it. Professor Futa Helu was always passionate about making sure that everyone had an education no matter their background or educational status.  He was great at giving people a second chance in life. Futa was a mechanical thinker who observed and devoted his life to understanding what is absolute and abstract. 

Q3: What does your day look like? 

At the early hour of 6am, I catch the bus to get to school. I arrive at 6.25am to make sure the Breakfast Club is ready for when the kids arrive. It runs from 8:15am to 8:45am and is held in the hall kitchen, so I make sure the space is clean and ready to go. I set out the tables and chairs, and check the surrounding areas are clean and free of rubbish. I am also in charge of distributing the fruit at school, so I prep that in buckets. It’s challenging but I do it because it is in line with my motto: “to love and to serve.” Children are at the heart of it all and matter the most, which is why I strive to serve them.  

I have four classrooms and I work with Ongoing Resource Scheme (ORS) funded kids. These are tamariki with some of the highest needs for specialist support at school. I’ll be working with them from 9am to 2pm. In the afternoons, I clean and look after the staff room. I finish off the day with some gardening and grounds work with our property manager. 

Q4:  People think my job is… but it’s actually… 

It is way more than just a learning assistant!  It is not just assisting the teacher or helping the children with their learning. It is about implanting a seed of knowledge and moral values that may impact everyone in a positive way. It is about selflessly giving your all so that others are content with life and believe that anything is possible no matter what. 

Q5: Favourite part of the day? 

My favourite part of the day is when I am with the children I work with in the classroom. It’s good to see them exceed their learning expectations. It’s good to see them thrive. It’s good to see them work hard to make a difference in their lives in every possible way. It’s a blessing and rewarding when the responsibility is done right. If we are not passionate or do not truly love what we do, the children will know and can sense it. I love the challenge and I love the fact that it changed me to become a better individual. It’s about the change you can make.

Related Posts

Day in the Life Series: Megan Hay

Being a lab manager and science technician for Hillcrest High School is a lot more than just filling chemical bottles and washing beakers. For Megan, it’s juggling multiple tasks to support staff, students and overnight science trips.

Read More

Day in the Life Series: Kelsey Stanyer

From swimming to running to stretching, from equipment set up to breathing support — everyday is different for a physiotherapist at Arohanui Special School. This series will highlight the incredible mahi done by our NZEI Te Riu Roa members.

Read More

Day in the Life series: Tiana Ranfurly

From finding new ways to engage with tamaliki while folding Pasefika languages into everyday play, Tiana Ranfurly shares her day teaching at Toru Fetu Kindergarten. This series will highlight the incredible mahi done by our NZEI Te Riu Roa members.

Read More

Day in the Life series: Maiana McCurdy

The reality of teaching extends far beyond 9am-3pm, and for this kaiako in Whangaparāoa looking after our tamariki with complex needs, the teaching & nurturing happens beyond the classroom. This series will highlight the incredible mahi done by our NZEI Te Riu Roa members.

Read More