Taking on the dual role of science teacher and Special Education Needs Coordinator is a mighty challenge for any Provisionally Certificated Teacher, let alone one who trained overseas.
But with the support of her school and the Teaching Council’s Tuakana Teina programme, Anne Pison has done just that - and she’s thriving.
Anne, who teaches at Raphael House Rudolf Steiner School in Lower Hutt, was matched with mentor Sally Green, from St Catherine’s College in Wellington.
“Teaching in New Zealand is totally different to the Philippines, where I’m from,” says Anne. “Sally’s help and advice has been invaluable.”
“My first year has been a huge learning curve as I get to grips with the Steiner philosophy, the science curriculum and special needs education.”
Anne Pison (right) and mentor Sally Green
Tuakana Teina harnesses the skills and knowledge of experienced mentor teachers and matches them with Provisionally Certificated Teachers who are having difficulty accessing a mentor, or who are partially completed, with the goal of helping them to progress to Full Certification.
Anne’s deputy principal has acted as her mentor since she joined the Steiner team earlier this year. “He has been very encouraging, but he’s so busy that he can’t always give me the support I need. That’s where Sally comes in,” Anne explains.
“I meet Sally every week to set my learning goals and review my progress. These relate to what I need to do towards achieving my Full Certification, and the evidence I need for Teaching as Inquiry.”
“Sally focuses on the big picture stuff and helps me to complete my paperwork, and my deputy principal continues to support me on specific tasks around appraisal. I’m extremely fortunate to now have two mentors working in parallel - it’s a real team effort.”
Anne Pison, Raphael House Rudolf Steiner School, Lower Hutt
Anne’s biggest challenge as a Special Education Needs Coordinator has been the isolation. She says, “It’s a lonely role because I have to decide and find solutions by myself, but I’m very appreciative of the support I get from the teachers and staff at school. The local SENCo network has also been a huge support and I regularly meet with other people working in the area.”
Anne adds, “Many of my special needs students require a specially adapted curriculum, so I need to understand the legal requirements of the New Zealand education system. Sally has been a fantastic sounding board. It’s been a journey of discovery for both of us at times!”
Having worked overseas herself, Sally feels a special affinity with Anne. “We have a lot in common. We’re both from schools with a ‘special character’, and like Anne, I taught science at secondary level. We’re a great match and work well together.”
Sally continues, “It is very unusual for a new teacher to work in the special needs education area. It is generally something that more experienced teachers move into, so Anne is doing exceptionally well.”
“Having said that, there could be a lot more people like Anne in the future. This means that building the capability of our profession, of teachers and mentors, is becoming more important than ever.”
A bit about Sally
Sally Green is a guidance counsellor at St Catherine’s – a Catholic college in Wellington. She started out as a mathematics and chemistry teacher, before moving into second chance education and counselling. Her career has taken her to diverse locations including Northland, Cairo and Kolkata.
Sally sees mentoring as a natural extension of counselling, explaining, “Both disciplines are about empowering people to discover the answers for themselves. The benefits can be life-changing.”
She adds, “Many PCTs are still reluctant to seek help because they fear they might be judged for not knowing. This really needs to change. Mentoring isn’t about admitting failure – it’s about taking advantage of all the support which is available to become the best teacher you can be.”