By: Samantha Olley

“I have been a mum, an aunty, and a sister to some students. I have had to be a doctor, a seamstress, and a counsellor, as well as their teacher.

“I’ve even had to tell some students ‘I think you need to go to the police’. I have given them food out of my lunchbox for a whole year.”

Those were just some of the job difficulties Post Primary Teachers’ Association Bay of Plenty representative Alex Le Long listed about being a teacher .

Post Primary Teachers’ Association regional chairwoman Alex Le Long (centre left) addresses the room at a 2018 members’ meeting. Photo / File

She was one of 150 secondary school teachers from around New Zealand, who gathered in Rotorua for the association’s annual Issues and Organising Seminar.

After a rousing pōwhiri from Rotorua Girls’ High School and Boys’ High School students, association president Jack Boyle gave his opening address.

“We sincerely hope the Government moves to seriously address the teacher supply and excessive workload issues,” he said.

The association has been negotiating its collective agreement with the Government since last August.

Boyle said members would strike on April 3 if they did not receive “a realistic offer” before then.

He said teachers didn’t want to have to take industrial action, but could have no other option.

Le Long agreed.

“The current Government wants to help, that’s why we pushed to vote them in, but we need to find a way to work together to get the best out of the situation.”

She has been teaching for eight years.

Le Long moved to Ōpōtiki for a new role this year, after finishing at Western Heights’ High School last year.

She is proud of her work and those she has taught, but one of the biggest demands she has faced in her career is pastoral care – emotional support.

“We have immense love for our students, and we give them so much of our lives because some do not have any other role models. There have been times where I have felt unsafe, but it does feel like you are part of their family sometimes.”

She said the association’s needs were just as serious as those of any other union that used strike action recently.

Western Heights High School teacher and fellow association member, Glenn Cassidy, said the Government’s offers had not come close so far.

“Things are getting worse in our profession and there is not enough support coming in to address that … We all care about the future of education, and therefore, the future of our communities.”

Post Primary Teachers’ Association member Glenn Cassidy addresses a 2018 members’ meeting. Photo / File

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