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Stint as teacher aide leads EIT graduate to pursue career in teaching

7 days ago

The three years that Steve Burgess spent as a teacher aide after leaving school convinced the Gisborne local to follow his passion and enrol in the Bachelor of Teaching (Primary) programme at EIT’s Tairāwhiti Campus.

Steve (Ngāti Kahungunu), says he loved his time as a teacher aide at Te Karaka Area School, north of Gisborne.

“Being a teacher aide really pushed me and made me decide that this was the right career path for me. I was dealing with children from five to 13-years-old and it really cemented my skills early on.”

Steve, who has been teaching Years 3 and 4 at Gisborne Central School since the beginning of last year, enrolled at EIT in 2017. He says he decided to do his degree through EIT because he had heard “really good things” about the teaching programme.

“I did a bit of research and went in to talk to them. What really sold it for me was the amount of practice-based learning you get.”

“At EIT you spend two days a week in a classroom at a school, so you get a lot of hands-on learning. What worked for me as well was being able to stay at home with my family while I trained, ” he says.

Steve looks back fondly on his time at EIT, with a particularly enjoyable aspect being his last practicum placement when he returned to his old school, Ormond School, in Gisborne.

“It was rather special to be back and there were even couple of teachers there from when I was a student,” says Steve, adding that he could not quite bring himself to address those teachers by their first names.

Steve, who graduated in 2019,  says he also enjoyed the smaller class sizes at EIT, which meant there was more opportunities for one-on-one time with lecturers.

He may have an opportunity to experience more of that as he plans to do a Master’s degree in the next couple of years. The topic– bilingual education.

“This is important to me because I’ve got Māori heritage through my father, and I’m actually on a journey myself to learn as much te reo Māori as I can. It has only really been in my adult years that I’ve understood my whakapapa.”

He has also been able to bring te reo into his classroom at Gisborne Central School, especially during Te Wiki o te Reo Māori (Māori Language Week) this year.

While Steve has ambitions to move into school leadership later in his career, he is loving his current role as a qualified teacher. He is also one of two sports co-ordinator and is in charge of the school vegetable garden with another teacher.

“We have been revitalising the school garden and making it a community project. It is rewarding for the children to see how a plant actually grows and the work they have to put into them to make that happen,’” he says.

Andy Hayward, the Principal of Gisborne Central School says: “We employed Steve as a graduate of EIT in 2020. We couldn’t be happier with how he settled in and  what he contributes to our school.” 

Fi Howard and Nikki O’Connor, Teacher Educators at EIT Tairāwhiti Campus say: “It’s been wonderful to be part of Steve’s growth as a teacher and to see him embrace te ao Māori and develop his strong child centred teaching philosophy.”