In 2006, she was appointed as Principal and became New Zealand’s first Tongan secondary school principal. While this achievement was a significant milestone in New Zealand education, Soana once told the book ‘Pasifika Woman – Our Stories in New Zealand’ that she didn’t consider the fact she was Tongan to be “such a big deal”.
In the 1990s, Tamaki College had a reputation as a tough school where only the toughest would survive. The Decile 1 Tamaki College student population still faces a range of socio-economic challenges, but this is a school on the rise. School leavers exceed national results for Maori and Pasifika students at NCEA Level 2.
The school has a Health Science Academy, named Tereora which is partnership with Pacific Futures to support young people and their families to enhance the pathway into Health Science.
Soana has lived in the school’s Glen Innes community for 30 years and has shared her skills with many organisations in governance roles, including ASB Community Trust, Teach First New Zealand, the Tamaki Redevelopment Company and, Te Papa Tongarewa – The Museum of New Zealand. In this role she has blended her commitment to New Zealand with her background as a historian. Community involvement also extends to Soana’s role as Vicar’s Warden at St Mary’s Cooperating Parish in Glen Innes. She will often lead Sunday morning services. Soana describes her family as her “oxygen”. She is married to Samiu and is the proud mother of Havea, an Engineer, Paul, an Engineer and Sela and Mino, who are studying at UNITEC and Auckland University.