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After raising her kids and realising she didn’t want to do market gardening anymore, Jean Newman felt stuck on what to do next.

‘I’m of the age where when I was growing up, you didn’t really know what jobs were out there. You just didn’t think through if a particular job was what you wanted to do.’

She said to her kids one day, ‘I don’t want to be packing vegetables anymore. But what can I do?’ These words, and the response from her two lovely girls, led this mother to a very rewarding career, ‘Oh but mum, you are the best mum we could ever have, and the best mums make the best teacher aides.’

Now this Levin-based teacher aide from Waiopehu College is heading towards her 8th year in her teacher aiding job that she absolutely loves.

Jean Newman, Teacher Aide at Waiopehu College with students

Teacher aides assist teachers in supporting students achieve their learning out comes. They work in a classroom by working with students on a one-to-one basis, or in groups. 

She shares that ‘learning by doing’ is really important and they use interactive activities to support learning. In June 2016, Waiopehu College opened a new learning support centre, Te Whare Awhina, that includes a sensory room.

‘When you see that student’s eyes light up, and they get what you’re trying to teach them…that’s when the penny drops, no matter how long that takes, that’s just so rewarding.’

Newman says a teacher aide’s day is varied and really full on. ‘There is no typical day as our role changes from hour to hour, even minute to minute, depending on the student.’

The intensity of the role didn’t stop Newman though from wanting to upskill in the job that she loves, to improve the support she provides to her students. She has just completed the NZQA recognised New Zealand Apprenticeship in Community Facilitation with the help of the Te Whare Awhina teaching staff, and industry training organisation, Careerforce.

She liked the flexibility of the programme and appreciated the fact that it wasn’t deadline driven. She shares, ‘I’ve still got to go to work and live my family life, but I was able to fit it in.’

‘I’ve learnt so much. I’ve learnt more about the background of the organisations we work with.’

‘The biggest thing was I learnt so much about myself. I learnt how my routine of playing solitaire at the end of the work day is my way of decluttering my brain. I really enjoyed that self-reflection part of it.’

Newman now encourages other teacher aides to consider completing this apprenticeship programme.

Read more about the Community Facilitation programme for Teacher Aides