Through his role, he has seen students adopt an “I can do anything” attitude, as they build up their independence and confidence while they learn new skills via innovative teaching methods and technology.

“It establishes a positive culture and it really makes turning up to work both rewarding and exciting … seeing the vast improvement in the quality of life for my students is motivating,” Tapara says. 

Currently in his eleventh year of teaching,Tapara initially trained as a secondary school physical education and health teacher, subjects he taught for six years. 

But when he moved to the United Kingdom for a stint, he taught students with emotional and behavioural difficulties, who had been excluded from mainstream education. 

“When I returned to New Zealand I took up a new challenge of special education which I have now fallen in love with,” Tapara adds. 

Community education at Sommerville Special School involves a functional curriculum that is a balance of vocational skills, life skills, leisure skills, numeracy and literacy. 

The school has recently become involved with the Manaiakalani Trust which has been fantastic, Tapara says. 

The Manaiakalani Education Programme promotes new teaching and learning approaches, including digital use across a growing cluster of low decile schools in some of Auckland’s eastern suburbs, including Panmure.  

As part of their curriculum, Tapara’s students have created a class blog using Blogger (, to share what they learn at school and more recently, each individual student has begun their own blog which is shared with the cyber world. 

“We also work with Google to develop skills with Google drive, G-Mail, Google docs, Google slides, and other apps to improve the look of what and how we share our learning journey on line.”

The benefits of using this technology are immense, Tapara says. 

“By giving our students the opportunity to share and celebrate our learning with the world, they are able to show family and other schools around the world exactly what we do. 

“By showing everyone how capable and amazing we are, they feel a great sense of self confidence and ownership of their learning - something my team and I feel very strongly about.” 

Using programmes such as Writing with Symbols really helps with students’ literacy skills, Tapara adds.

“One student uses an app Prolougue2go - an amazing communication app from Apple that allows deaf students to construct sentences and show understanding by speaking for them.

“These sorts of programmes are of huge importance to me, as it really allows all students to be involved in all learning activities and for everyone to feel they are an important part of the class.” 

There is no shortage of advice or innovative ideas at Sommerville Special School Tapara says, where the staff readily share resources, web sites and new apps that could be beneficial for students.

During his time at Sommerville, Tapara has ambitions of developing a fully inclusive community programme for the students, while giving students the best possible opportunities to develop and achieve any goals they set. 

He hopes to see his students’ quality of life keep on improving and will do what he can to ensure this happens under his watch.