Beginning teacher motivated to make a difference

Issue: Volume 99, Number 19

Posted: 19 November 2020
Reference #: 1HAEbh

Beginning teacher Ethan Nisbett shares his pathway into teaching and why this is the profession for him.

Beginning teacher Ethan says he has found his vocation.

Beginning teacher Ethan says he has found his vocation.

Ethan Nisbett left high school with plans to start a career in the sports industry, but 10 years on he’s back in the classroom, now as a beginning teacher passionate about driving educational achievement.

“After finishing high school, I worked at a local recreation centre running sports competitions and helping with the holiday programme. That was enough to make me realise I needed to refocus by prioritising my education so I signed up for a foundation certificate in sport and recreation at Unitec.

“Suddenly I found a thirst for learning, particularly in the autonomous style. I went on to do a Bachelor of Sport and was so inspired by teaching that I went on to university to complete a postgraduate teaching diploma.”

Rewarding work

At the start of 2020, Ethan joined Waitākere College, teaching PE & Health. He says he has found his vocation.

“I love engaging with young people and finding what makes them tick. ‘Light bulb moments’ are what I live for, and I find the work incredibly rewarding.

“My transition into Waitākere College as a beginner teacher has been greatly helped by the coaching I have done within this community. The students and I have seen each other in a real-world setting and that allows me to be authentic.

“I love my school community, and as I grew up in this neighbourhood, I understand the complexity of our student population. It helps too that the school’s emphasis on a growth mindset and manaakitanga blends well with my values.

“My two biggest support networks are our mentorship programme and our Beginner Teacher Programme (BTP). My mentor Philip Brain is nothing short of amazing; we meet regularly to discuss everything from effective pedagogy, school protocols, assessment and anything else that pops up. Our BTP leader, Ruth Monk, is equally amazing – her enthusiasm and love for her students is contagious.

“The tech-savvy style of my teacher training has been hugely helpful in equipping me to engage with students, particularly during the disruptions imposed by Covid-19. And on the job I have learned a lot about restorative justice and how we can defuse conflict as well as empower students to make better decisions without punishment. My main teaching goal is to build and develop assessment using a strengths-based approach rather than the traditional essay-style assessment.”

A natural fit

Waitākere College principal Mark Shanahan says employing Ethan was a “no brainer”.

“When Ethan was on practicum here, he got involved in rugby coaching, which is a passion he shares with so many students. Once you observe a teacher who wants to contribute to the wider life of the college and builds positive relationships with students in and outside the classroom you know you have a natural fit for our kids here. He had mana that students respected and a reflective humility showing that he was here to learn.”

Mark says the National Beginning Teacher Induction Grant (NBT) allowed the school to consider appointing new teachers because it reduced barriers for making sure there were very good resources available to the teachers in both starting and progressing through the year.

“We were able to strengthen our induction and support programme for all our beginning teachers. We take pride in the care and support provided for our beginning teachers as we want them to have the best positive impact on the learning of their students while they too are adjusting to the craft that is teaching.

“We cater or target professional development opportunities for specific needs that a beginner teacher may have and Ethan has been involved in a 3-day coaching programme, as well as specific resourcing such as the PE Geek subscription made available for the department.”

On top of this, each beginning teacher has a timetabled specialist subject mentor to inform and support with the skills needed in the specific subject discipline.

“We use the Specialist Classroom Teacher to meet regularly with the beginning teachers and new teachers to focus on lesson planning for successful outcomes,” says Mark.

“This resource allowed us to then drill down with teachers needing fine tuning in this area. Beginning teachers have the opportunity to shadow and observe experienced teachers across the school to see the range of teaching techniques that work with their subject and with different students and classes, and are actively involved in our PD programme held each week. Some even lead sessions.”

Ethan with his mentor Philip Brain (right) and principal Mark Shanahan (left).

Ethan with his mentor Philip Brain (right) and principal Mark Shanahan (left).

National Beginning Teacher Induction Grant

The NBT is valued at $10,000 (ex GST) and is paid to eligible state or state-integrated schools to fund recruitment and structured mentorship of beginning teachers, enabling them to “shadow” and be mentored by an experienced teacher before taking on their own class and teaching independently.

New Zealand state and state-integrated schools meeting one or more of the following criteria are eligible to apply:

  • Decile 1–5 schools
  • Severely isolated schools
  • Schools that require teachers for te reo Māori as a subject or for the provision of Māori medium education
  • Secondary schools that require teachers for secondary (Years 9–13) STEM subjects

The beginning teacher must be a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident, provisionally certificated, and not have taught as a qualified teacher in a school previously.

For more information go to the TeachNZ(external link) website.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 12:05 pm, 19 November 2020

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