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A New Teacher Training Scheme

Taken from the May 2022 edition of Ad Augusta.

In 2021, Auckland Grammar School took on three teacher trainees in a new teacher training scheme. Both the School and trainees were thrilled with the outcome.

Auckland Grammar School’s teaching staff at the start of 2022 included three men new to the teaching fraternity, all of whom have diverse backgrounds and are loving the career change. Mr Willie Rickards ’98, Mr Nico Leiseder and Mr Josh Potaka (pictured above with mentor Ms Adrienne Birtwistle) were inaugural students of the Auckland Schools’ Partnership Project (ASPP). The initiative is based on the belief that the best teacher training happens in the context of classroom experiences within schools. In its first year of operation last year, Auckland Grammar School was one of 11 Auckland secondary schools working in partnership with the University of Waikato led programme. Across the 11 schools involved, there were 24 trainees accepted in total, three of them at Grammar. This year a further nine Auckland schools have joined the programme.

Adrienne mentored the trainee teachers and says, “it is a fantastic way for us to find quality people to teach at Grammar, who bring with them wonderful experience in other fields, and a passion to teach.” The School chose three teacher trainees who exemplify Adrienne’s point.

Willie has a Sports Management and Coaching degree from Massey University and before teaching was the Head Coach of the Taranaki Rugby side. Previous to that, he was Head Coach of the Taranaki Sevens rugby team, and played for Taranaki.

Josh graduated from Victoria University with a Bachelor of Science majoring in Biotechnology. His last position was at the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR), where he worked in the toxicology lab and the Forensic Service Centre laboratories. Josh has also been involved with helping police collect DNA in specialist situations and supporting PhD students completing their research into baby and fetal health at the Liggins Institute.

Nico has a Master of Arts in History and Comparative Germanic Linguistics from the University of Zurich. He enjoyed working in jobs throughout University that allowed him to share the stories of the past with people, while they also learnt new skills and facts. A teaching diploma was already next in his career plan, and he had applied for the regular postgraduate diploma before he became aware of the one-year programme at the University of Waikato.

A specialist English master in her own right, Adrienne runs the programme and explains choosing the right candidates is crucial. “Last year we had three excellent trainees in Willie, Josh and Nico chosen from a sizeable application group. All three had experience training, or working with young people, that made them ideally suited to transition to the classroom.”

The course is challenging. Trainees are immersed in a chosen school for an entire year. They are positioned as staff of their partner school but are fully supervised when they are in classrooms by Mentor Teachers, such as Adrienne, who are fully certified teachers. At the same time, they are enrolled in the University of Waikato’s one-year Initial Teacher Education (ITE) programme. Throughout the year, they attend workshops at each of the partner schools, on topics related to their teaching practice. At the end of the programme they receive their Graduate or Postgraduate Diploma of Teaching and are eligible for teacher registration and employment, ideally at the same school which has hosted them. All three Grammar trainees are staying on at Grammar, fully immersed in the life and culture of the School.

The School was keen to engage in the new training programme as research shows that the greatest influence on student learning is the classroom teacher. Grammar has a wealth of excellence in teaching giving trainees a good start. Adrienne believes it to be a good fit with the School’s ethos. “Our belief is that trainee teachers gain the most valuable experience when they are under the supervision of expert teachers, in a school, where they can practise skills and develop knowledge, that help them make the links between theory and practice in authentic settings.”

Managing the demands of study, teaching, and extracurricular activities, as well as their own family commitments, meant the course required a robust commitment from trainees. While challenging at times, all agreed it was an excellent course.

Nico, Willie and Josh have not had anyone follow in their footsteps this year. As Adrienne plainly puts it, the right fit is crucial. “This year we had fewer applications, and none in the subject areas that we were looking for, with the suitable background experience. So, we have nobody in the programme this year.”

The School is now actively looking for candidates for next year, and Adrienne is keen to hear from those looking to teach. “We have begun the process of taking applications for 2023, with people already contacting the School directly to express their interest.”