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June Spotlight: Tomu Valeti

Tomu Valeti: Class 6 Teacher and Pen Pal Partner


Please meet our Monthly Spotlight for June: Tomu (Tom) Valeti!  Tomu is a teacher on the Island of ‘Eua and currently lives in the village of Futu.  He belongs to the Roman Catholic Church, which he is very active in.  He is the father of six children (3 boys and 3 girls) with his lovely wife Emeline.  

Tomu has been a teacher for over 17 years and has worked directly with five Peace Corps Volunteers (PCV), which spans over a decade (2009-2019).  He is considered a beloved counterpart and is thought of fondly by the PCVS who served with him.  According to them, he is passionate about teaching and was a great asset to any volunteer who was placed where he worked.   He is very friendly and approachable; quick to include them and to make them feel comfortable.  

He is always a fun person and has a fantastic sense of humor.  One of the volunteers interviewed for this spotlight recounts how every time she was late to school, without fail, he would poke his head out of the classroom and tap his wrist with a big smile on his face.  She will always remember laughing the hardest with him.  

Despite him being a fun person and having a tendency to joke around, he was also a serious counterpart and helped the volunteers understand the culture, customs, and nuances of Tonga and how they intersected in the classroom in easy and understandable ways.  It was incredibly important for him to help integrate volunteers into the community and to take the time to introduce them to other people in the village and to invite them over to his home to have Sunday dinner with him and his family.  All of these efforts by Tomu were invaluable to the volunteers and have stuck with them to this day.  

He is also a passionate teacher.  When asked why he chose teaching as a profession he gave an honest answer: “At first, I wanted to be a teacher because I just wanted to have a job, but as time went on I quickly realized that this profession is a blessing because I can help change a child’s life through teaching.”  He really enjoys teaching too!  He finds it incredibly fun and rewarding when he understands his students’ learning styles and is able to tailor lessons to their style.  He acknowledges that it can be challenging but he finds it rewarding, especially when he is able to measure their progress and when they begin to understand the topic he is teaching.  This passion for teaching is why he is so adamant to work with PCVs.  He says, “It is always an exciting time to work with these volunteers because they help a lot with reaching comprehension, vocabulary, the different letters in the alphabet that are not here in Tonga, and providing the extra support in English.”

He is continuously looking for ways to support his students and volunteers for extracurriculars, like coaching at Sport Day.  Furthermore, he is one of the first Tongan teachers to join the Friends of Tonga Pen Pal Program.  His class six students from Tufu Vai partnered with a classroom in Hawaii where they exchanged letters and videos. Tomu even took a video of his students completing a science lesson on the beach. Tomu says he has really enjoyed being a part of this program and that his students were very excited when they received their letters! 

When he is not parenting his 6 kids, teaching, or tending to the many other obligations in his life, Tomu enjoys drinking kava and playing cricket.  He also really loves Tonga and loves living in Tonga.  When asked what people should do when they come to visit, he says “If you come to Tonga, switch your heart to the Tongan way and your watch to Tongan time.  That way it will be an enjoyable time!”  

**Tomu’s class is currently looking for a new pen pal partner class, if you know anyone who is interested!