'The lecturers that we got to work alongside are very influential and full of enthusiasm for what they do...'
Teacher and Head of Performing Arts, Remarkables School, Queenstown
‘Being the best teacher I can be, making a difference to people’s lives, and sharing my love of learning’ are Emily’s main goals as she establishes her primary teaching career.
‘I think that from a very young age I wanted to teach, but it wasn’t until I was a year out of high school when someone suggested it to me that I really thought about it. From then on in it was all or nothing!’ Emily says.
Emily has made the most of her time at UC, with one highlight being a trip to Japan which was arranged through the University.
‘During our time there we were fortunate to spend days in three different schools to conduct observations and research. It was an amazing trip and extremely well organised as we were able to spend time exploring Japan and become fully emerged in the amazing culture they have over there.’
Emily grew up in Queenstown and chose to study at UC for two reasons: ‘Firstly, because it was different. Not many people from down home choose to go to Christchurch to study, so I thought “well, why not?” And secondly, from looking and researching into the different teaching degrees offered throughout the country, the one offered by UC really stood out.
‘The best part of the degree is the practical component. Although it is very important to know and understand the theory, sometimes the links don’t get made until you see it in practice.
‘I also think that all the lecturers that we got to work alongside are very influential and full of enthusiasm for what they do, and this really helped me to remain focused and motivated. Which, in turn, lead to enjoyment!
‘I loved the community feel and all the extra things the Uni has to offer, such as the clubs and events. I also loved the grounds and location. Everyone is friendly and wants to be there, which is really nice.’
Before finishing her degree, Emily landed a job teaching year one students at Willowbank School in Botany Downs, Auckland.
‘I applied because Willowbank stood out to me with its vision of “Discover the potential, develop the learning, nurture the relationships”.
‘Each day I was responsible for ensuring the children in my class were developing in their academic, social and emotional needs. I ensured that they were working to their full potential and were happy in their classroom environment. The morning was filled with literacy then mathematics – exploring, discovering, making and achieving goals. I saw satisfaction and hardworking children who had worked with me to plan their learning progression. The afternoon brings inquiry learning, sports and the arts.’
Emily also became the school’s Head of Arts, to further encourage the teaching of arts and to create more opportunities for children to participate in the arts outside the classroom.
Later Emily would spend two years on a working holiday in London, completing a mixture of relieving roles at different schools, and spending a year in a permanent position teaching year 3.
‘It was really rewarding as it opened my eyes to see the range of children, their cultures and their backgrounds, as well as the massive difference in the education system. I know I learnt a lot moving between different schools and areas of London. I was on a new journey and really found it a learning curve on my behaviour management skills and pedagogy. My time at UC certainly helped to set me up to being able to flexibly teach overseas, especially the Japan trip.
‘Other than that, I managed to travel to around 40 different counties and I think more than anything that has helped me to become a better teacher. I am more experienced in life, and I incorporate my stories into my teaching too.’
Now Emily has returned to Queenstown to work as a year 7 teacher at Remarkables School. She is also the Head of Performing Arts, with much of her time spend running performance events, clubs, and the school band and choir.
‘I have moved into the intermediate years, which can be challenging and I certainly feel more like I have a social worker role as well as a teacher role. This age is such a touching time in children's lives,’ she says.
Outside work, Emily’s energies are spent ‘with friends and family, going to markets and exploring new places. But mostly I love performing. Whether on stage or off, I’ll give everything a go and I’m not afraid to make a fool of myself as it all counts as life experience and fun times.
‘One thing I have learnt and become good at is being able to find that life-work balance. That at the moment is what I see as being the most important. It gives you way more enjoyment in the classroom, knowing you have stuff outside of it too.’
And being open to challenges is important if you want to succeed in a teaching degree.
Emily advises: ‘Give it all you’ve got. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Become friends with your lecturers, and embrace all the situations on your placements with an open mind. Remember: you are always learning and you’ll never stop, even when you have the degree!
‘Just prepare to work hard, prepare to be frustrated, but prepare to see miracles happen.’