An opportunity seized
Gemma completed a degree in Deaf Studies and Linguistics in London, then began her professional life as a primary school teacher. Three years ago she was on a working holiday in Auckland where she saw an ad for a teacher at Kelston Deaf Education Centre Preschool. She applied and was appointed on the condition she would complete a Graduate Diploma in Teaching (Early Childhood Education) at New Zealand Tertiary College. “I’m really glad that I got this break into ECE – it was a matter of being at the right place at the right time,” she says. “I so appreciate this sector’s holistic approach to children’s learning and development.”
Gemma loved that the online program delivery meant she could choose when she studied. She would often stay up late reading the latest articles and journals; “so much so I had to be quite self-disciplined. I often found that I started looking at articles that weren’t related to a specific assignment, but were really interesting and relevant to my teaching practice!”
A centre with a difference
Gemma’s centre caters for children with a hearing loss, their brothers and sisters, and recently they have started to enrol children from the local community who don’t have any connection to deafness at all. The centre is ‘bilingual’ as they use Spoken English and New Zealand Sign Language every day.
Her love and knowledge of language has only grown as she works alongside occupational therapists, physiotherapists, speech and language therapists, deaf language assistants and Advisers on Deaf Children. There’s a strong focus on language development so when the teachers interact with the children and each other they are modelling language and encouraging communication.
As a British ex-pat, Gemma felt that she had a lot to learn about New Zealand’s multicultural society. She says the Bicultural Practice in Early Childhood Education and Inclusive Practice courses helped her to understand how culture impacts on learning and encouraged her to reflect on her own background.
Naturally she chose to write on literacy for the research course, which inspired her to think even more deeply about her centre’s program and how they were targeting children’s literacy.
Reaping the rewards
Gemma considers it a privilege to watch the children develop their communication skills; “especially as it can take many months of them drinking in your words or signs before they feel able to have a go themselves,” she explains. “One day, one of the children suddenly called my name across the playground! My colleague and I jumped up and down on the spot and hugged each other, we were so excited!”
Since completing her qualification last December, Gemma has been considering her future career options. While she’s obviously well-placed in deaf education, her interests extend to all special needs, including developmental delays, sensory issues and attachment disorder. “I feel very excited about my future career, as I anticipate that I’ll be able to explore lots of really interesting areas of ECE, using my new qualification as a starting point,” she says. “I’m very grateful for the opportunities that this qualification has given me.”
To make a difference in the lives of the next generation like Gemma, please call us on (09) 520 4000 or email Enrolments.
To apply for our Postgraduate Diploma in Education (Early Childhood Education) program, or any one of our specialist early childhood qualifications, please click HERE.