The Enviroschools Teacher Aide (ESTA) project is an inspiring initiative that came out of an Auckland Green-Gold Principals Think Tank process.
The ESTA project was established through idea-sharing, collaboration, and cross sector partnership between Work and Income NZ, Waitakere Improving School Attendance Programme, three established Green-Gold Enviroschools, Toimata Foundation, and Auckland Council.
Advertised as a “Return to the Workforce” programme for parents who were receiving the Sole Parent Support benefit, the programme started as a one-year pilot by employing three sole parents to work in Flanshaw Road School, Tirimoana Primary and Royal Road School.
The Enviroschools Teacher Aides worked closely with the lead Enviroschools teachers and the school caretaker at each school to assist students to implement sustainability projects.
The three parents selected for the teacher aide roles were given specific and ongoing professional development through Enviroschools.
This included developing their knowledge of sustainability, the essentials of the Enviroschools kaupapa, and how to work alongside students to empower them in their learning and in their ability to take meaningful and informed action.
Equally important in developing the Enviroschools Teacher Aides knowledge and confidence, were one-on-one focused and reflective conversations. These supported the parents to progress in their knowledge and understanding of the Enviroschools Programme and the resources available to them.
The ESTA project lead, Sandy Bell-Jameson (Professional Development Coordinator, Toimata Foundation), commented that the three new Enviroschools Teacher Aides quickly settled into school life where their confidence bloomed.
“What really struck me about this pilot is that it is about real lives and real-life situations that are often very challenging for the ESTA’s involved. It’s not just about a nice project – it is real life for these three women… It’s life-changing” – Sandy-Bell Jameson
Classroom teachers also commented about how having an extra pair of hands to support their school’s sustainability journey increased their own capacity to teach. The students gain from working alongside another supportive adult in small group situations.
The participants in this ESTA project have felt the difference the programme has made in their lives.
“My advice to the upcoming ESTA’s is this is an opportunity of a lifetime and I know it will change your life as much as it did mine. Don’t give up! Keep going forward and be willing to learn” – ESTA participant (who now has a permanent role and plans to become a teacher).
The project pilot was completed in June 2018, and a reflection hui directly afterwards showed the pilot to be a success.
The second round of the project has now commenced, and the number of schools involved and positions available has grown from three to eight – a huge boost in contributing to sustainable communities!
The ESTA project provides a unique opportunity for meaningful employment and on-going professional development.
Update: The story continues with the second intake of Enviroschools Teacher Aides (see photo gallery below), being offered roles from October 2018- June 28 2019. The four wonderful wahine who picked up these roles at Flanshaw Road School (2), Tirimoana and West Harbour Schools, have certainly made a difference in the 20 weeks supporting the implementation of the Enviroschols programme. The Teacher Aides have worked alongside teachers and students to support learning and help create butterfly gardens, worm farms, raise seedlings, teach and empower students about marae tikanga and assist kapa haka groups in their performance- just to name a few projects/tasks.
As they reflected on the 20 weeks the Teacher Aides shared how they loved that Enviroschools, “…made students think about the world they live in”, and how people were “respecting and learning about different cultures”. The Programme has added value to each person individually as well as for each school involved.
The very happy ending to this particular story is that each of the schools have decided to extend the employment of their Teacher Aides in the hope that an opportunity will arise to employ them permanently in the school. Fantastic news!
Ngā mihi nui ki a koutou to all those involved.