An opportunity to re-energise: TeachNZ Study Awards

Issue: Volume 96, Number 7

Posted: 1 May 2017
Reference #: 1H9d7S

Ellesmere College deputy principal Robyn Thompson is also international director at the Christchurch school, and was last year awarded a Secondary Teacher Sabbatical to investigate learning programmes that foster the engagement and motivation of indigenous and ethnic students. Education Gazette asks Robyn about the work she is undertaking.

What inspired you to be a teacher in the first place?

I had a number of inspirational role models growing up, many of whom were teachers. A number of my father’s friends had trained in Taiwan to be physical education teachers and when my dream of being a dancer came crashing down it seemed to be a very good option for me.

These teachers were very skilled in physical activity and seem to have fun in their chosen occupation. Even though I did not go straight into teaching, having worked in the corporate sector for a number of years, when I had my first child 30 years ago teaching was what I wanted to pursue and it was a good fit with my life at the time.

It is not a decision I have ever regretted.

What motivated you to apply for a TeachNZ Study Award?

After 27 years of teaching, I felt I needed a break to recharge my batteries and to have an opportunity to look at how we might improve education for ethnic minorities and indigenous people.

I had also been asked to develop a Māori strategic achievement plan for our college, which also ties into this.

What was the focus of your award, and why did you choose it?

During this sabbatical, I investigated learning programmes to foster the engagement and motivation of indigenous and ethnic students in their learning.

I had previously visited schools in the United States to explore this topic. During my sabbatical, I visited a number of schools in New Zealand to observe student programmes.

In particular, I wanted to examine two key questions:

  • What learning programmes are implemented elsewhere to foster the engagement and motivation of students, and specifically indigenous students?
  • What is the role of language (ie, te reo Māori) and culture in enhancing the learning of indigenous students?

My own experiences inform these questions, as I am an ethnic minority. But I also wanted to do this work for my husband, Larry Thompson, who is the inspiration for it.

He was kaiako Māori teacher at Papanui High School, and he passed away four years ago. His deep dedication to students and their learning is remembered in this work.

I knew how wonderful he was, but I didn’t realise how good he was at his job until he died. People he had taught over the years came back from around the world for his tangi. He’d made such an impact on so many people – he really inspired and motivated his students.

The second part of the sabbatical was to develop the Māori strategic achievement plan for Ellesmere College.

Because Māori education is about relationships – it’s really about the kids – I am honoured to walk my husband’s pathway for a while. He was all about forming and maintaining good relationships with his students and their whānau, in order to achieve the best outcomes for them.

I also want to acknowledge Krystal Te Rina Warren of Massey University, who supported me in my studies.

How have you integrated the focus of your Award into your teaching practice?

Beginning this year, the Māori strategic achievement plan is something Ellesmere College will focus on for the next two to three years.

It is not just for me to integrate into my teaching practice but for all staff. The strategic plan is divided up into the following goals:

  • Student learning and academic success.
  • Role modelling/mentoring and leadership.
  • Culturally responsive and relational pedagogy.
  • Building relationships (whakawhānaungatanga).

What would you say to fellow teachers thinking of applying for a Study Award?

It is an opportunity to research a project that as a teacher we just don’t have time to do. I think that as teachers, we don’t actually realise how much of your life is taken up with working – we go from one thing to the next thing, and there’s always something happening in the day-to-day running of a school.

To be able to step back and reflect on things is amazing.

If you have a passion you would like to research and learn more about, or you’d like to visit other schools, look at different cultures and the way they do things, then this is your opportunity.

You will feel refreshed and energised and able to look at the big picture of the work you’re doing.

Take time out for a 2018 TeachNZ study award or sabbatical

Applications are now open. Please check the 2017 closing dates as they will differ, depending on whether you are an area, secondary or primary school.

The Ministry of Education is committed to supporting the professional development of teachers and principals.

The TeachNZ Study Awards are part of the negotiated union collective agreements which provide paid study leave to complete part-time or full-time study in an educational priority area. The length of study leave awarded is based on your proposed study. Sabbaticals give teachers and principals the opportunity to spend three, five or 10 weeks completing a professional learning activity, and a chance for reflection and rejuvenation.

Area schools and secondary schools

Closing date for applications is Tuesday 6 June 2017.

A total of 29 Study Awards and Sabbaticals for area teachers and principals are available.

  • 7 full-time teacher equivalent (FTTE) Area Teachers Study Awards (AT)
  • 12 Area Teachers Sabbaticals (ATS)
  • 10 FTTE Area Principals Sabbaticals (APS)

A total of 175 Study Awards and Sabbaticals for secondary teachers, principals and managers are available.

  • 75 FTTE Secondary Teachers Study Awards (ST)
  • 50 Secondary Teachers Sabbaticals (STS)
  • 40 FTTE Secondary Principals Sabbaticals (SPS)
  • 10 Secondary Senior Managers Sabbaticals (SSMS)
  • 50 Primary Teachers Sabbaticals are available (PTS)
  • 105 Primary Principals Sabbaticals are available (PPS)
  • 75 FTTE Primary Teachers and Principals Study Awards are available (PT).

Primary schools

A total of 230 Study Awards and Sabbaticals for primary teachers and primary principals and managers are available.

Closing date for applications is Monday 3 July 2017.

  • 50 Primary Teachers Sabbaticals are available (PTS)
  • 105 Primary Principals Sabbaticals are available (PPS)
  • 75 FTTE Primary Teachers and Principals Study Awards are available (PT).

To apply now and for more information, go to the TeachNZ website(external link) 

The Study Support Grants will open next month.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 3:26 pm, 1 May 2017

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