Study awards enrich teachers

Issue: Volume 98, Number 13

Posted: 1 August 2019
Reference #: 1H9wWo

Each year around 350 early childhood and school teachers receive awards to complete postgraduate diplomas in specialist teaching through the Ministry of Education’s Learning Support Study Awards. The awards package can include paid tuition fees, study leave and contributions towards travel and accommodation for block courses.

Two award recipients talked to Education Gazette about how their careers have been enriched by further study.

Rotorua assistant principal Clare Barratt-Wood was a recipient of the Autism Spectrum Disorder Study Award in 2017 and completed the programme in 2019. 

After volunteering at Rotorua’s Kea Street Specialist School, Clare did teacher training and returned to the school in 2013 as a classroom teacher and dance specialist. At the beginning of 2019 she became an assistant principal at Western Heights Primary School, where she coordinates support for students in the ongoing resourcing scheme (ORS).

The scheme supports students with the highest level of learning needs to join in and learn alongside other students at school. Clare also works with non-ORS funded students who have learning needs. Working with the classroom teacher, whānau, specialists, and an “amazing team” of teacher aides who work with students who require additional support, Clare makes sure the students’ needs are met and they are able to access the curriculum. 

Collaborating empowers students

“I think the biggest part of our work is the collaborative effort in putting together a proactive plan to empower students,” says Clare. 

“The synergy from all parties is what ensures success, and the principles of inter-professional practice apply to my current role. I don’t think there is such a thing as an ‘expert’. I believe – and the programme really embedded this – that working together is better.” 

Clare says the postgraduate diploma enabled her to connect with people from different endorsement areas, such as learning and behaviour, complex needs and early intervention. 

“I think as a teacher you can sometimes get immersed in your own bubble and being part of the programme opened my eyes to approaches to autism spectrum disorder within different working contexts,” she says.

Key learnings from the two years of study were the evidence-based practices, meaning that the educational interventions being used must be strongly supported by evidence from well-conducted research studies. This approach underpins the course and the key principles of learning, such as student-centred learning.

“Bringing those skills, passion and new ideas into a mainstream environment will have a positive outcome for students with additional learning needs,” Clare says. 

“I think you can always learn more. The research within the field of ASD and neurodiversity is exciting – it is about adapting a strengths-based approach to how we are teaching to ensure we are empowering all students to succeed.” 

Pacific PowerUP for Dunedin teacher

A Pacific preschool in Dunedin has been enriched by its manager, Lisa Seuseu, doing the Postgraduate Diploma in Specialist Teaching (Early Intervention). 

Lisa started teaching at Punavai o le Atamai preschool 17 years ago. In recent years, she noticed an increasing number of children with learning support needs.  

“We now have about six children a year receiving support from the Ministry. The waiting list can be long and kaiako were at a loss to know how to support them. We tried various teaching strategies, but they didn’t work long term,” says Lisa.

In 2018 she was awarded a Ministry of Education Learning Support Study Award, which covers course costs, travel expenses and release time. Study for the diploma has been online, with two block courses each year, and Lisa says she has found a real passion for early intervention.

Two-way learning 

“There was lots of reciprocal learning, ako, on the courses – the lecturers said they were learning from us as well. In the second year we got to do a practicum which allows you to participate in a huge amount of professional learning and development,” she says.  

Working alongside an early intervention specialist from the Ministry of Education gave Lisa insight into the role and responsibilities of the job.

“We’ve really looked in-depth at some of the developmental delays and specific learning disorders, the associated learning needs and formulating plans for these learners, syndromes and learning needs and formulating plans for them,” she explains.

Working from a whānau perspective

“We looked closely at the whānau perspective and how families feel about a child needing learning support. There’s often some grief when they realise their children aren’t taking the trajectory they imagined. I work with families differently now and try to ensure that we are all working together to make changes to help their child.”

Now in her final semester of study, Lisa has enjoyed many opportunities for professional development, such as taking a
New Zealand Sign Language class and learning about the pedagogy and roles of other professionals who support learners with additional needs. 

A highlight has been contributing to the Ministry’s Tapasa-Cultural Competencies Framework for Teachers of Pacific Learners. This expert panel co-constructed a suite of professional learning resources for palagi teachers who have Pacific learners. It helps them become culturally competent and ensures the learning is meaningful for their students.

Lisa has also become involved in a Ministry programme, Pacific PowerUP Flexiplus, in Dunedin. This aims to support Pacific parents, families and communities to champion their children’s learning. 

“My growth as a teacher has been exponential. I have been able to share my learning with faia’oga, and aiga and improve the service we provide for tamaiti. I have a real passion for inclusive education which is mirrored by our preschool’s philosophy which celebrates language, culture and identity,” she says.

Investing in teachers 

The awards are an investment in teachers so they can gain specialised knowledge. There are currently six endorsements under the programme: autism spectrum disorder, complex educational needs, early intervention, learning and behaviour, deaf and hard of hearing, blind and low vision.

“We want high-quality applications from teachers who could impact their community positively in the future. The skills, knowledge and qualification they gain from the programme can be transferred to their own work, add value to their preschools, schools and overall community and help progress their careers in learning support,” says Aiko Sato, Ministry of Education Advisor Study Awards and Scholarships.

The 2020 round of applications for the awards opened on 1 August and closes on 30 September.

For more information click here.(external link)

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 12:28 pm, 1 August 2019

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