The overseas-trained teacher

If you look on the Department of Labour Immediate Skill Shortage List (ISSL) and the Long Term Skill Shortage List (LTSSL) you will find teaching listed. However, TeachNZ warns that this does not guarantee teachers who completed their training abroad a teaching job in New Zealand, despite particular demand for certain subjects such as English, mathematics and te reo Māori.

Unsurprisingly, the majority of overseas teachers working in New Zealand schools have come from countries with strong language, cultural and educational similarities to New Zealand, such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, Canada and South Africa. It is important to be extremely competent in written and spoken English.

Although demand does fluctuate from year to year, TeachNZ outlines the main teaching opportunities that currently exist in New Zealand schools and early childhood (ECE) services as follows:

Early childhood teachers (ECE)

  • Demand for teachers who are speakers of te reo Māori and Pasifika languages is high.
  • All overseas early childhood education teaching qualifications need to be assessed by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) to be equivalent to a Diploma of Teaching (ECE) or Bachelor of Teaching (ECE).
  • Overseas-trained ECE teachers must be qualified to teach 0?5 years to obtain New Zealand equivalency and teacher registration. Many overseas applicants are qualified to teach in the 4-5 age range only. It is also important to note that vocational programmes in early childhood education (e.g. NNEB and Cache Certificate/Diploma programmes in the UK) are not comparable to the three-year academic degree-level programmes that are required to be recognised early childhood educators in New Zealand.
  • As there are new courses developed from time to time, it is critical that ECE teachers considering coming to New Zealand have their qualifications assessed by NZQA.

Primary teachers

  • Demand for primary teachers fluctuates relative to a range of demographic factors. However, as Auckland has the largest population, teacher vacancies are typically concentrated there.

Secondary teachers

  • There is more demand for teachers of English, maths, te reo Māori, physical education, physics and chemistry.
  • NZQA provides the most up-to-date information on the recognition of overseas teaching qualifications.

Special education teachers

  • Qualified, experienced teachers of children with learning or behavioural issues and those working with children with physical disabilities are sought after.

The teacher returning to teaching

Whether you are considering returning to teaching after a complete break or returning to full-time teaching after working part-time, TeachNZ advises returning teachers to find out what teaching is like these days by talking to successful teachers currently in the classroom.

As with the teacher returning from overseas, a diverse and exciting curriculum awaits along with increased salary levels and more opportunities for professional development.

The teacher returning to New Zealand

Despite fluctuations in employment opportunities, people with teaching experience are highly sought after in New Zealand schools and early childhood services. TeachNZ points out plenty of reasons to consider returning home to a teaching job in secondary or primary schools, including a diverse and exciting curriculum, increased salary levels, increased professional development opportunities, and possibly an International Relocation Grant for primary and secondary teachers within three months of returning to New Zealand ($2,500, if your term of employment is for at least six weeks but less than two school terms; $5,000 for two school terms or more).

TeachNZ advises teachers returning to New Zealand to sort out confirmation of registration status, which can be checked with the New Zealand Teachers Council. They should also seek police clearance from their overseas country where they were last teaching and NZQA assessment if any extra qualifications have been completed overseas. For pay purposes it is necessary to have an official letter from the overseas school detailing the exact number of days teaching.

Those teachers who haven’t been teaching overseas will need to show registration status and recognition of relevant work while overseas, for pay purposes. It is important to note that once you have been out of teaching for more than three years, you will not be able to renew your practising certificate.

The newly qualified teacher

Upon graduating, newly qualified teachers can apply for provisional registration. As a new teacher, you must then complete two years of supervised teaching following the completion date of your teaching qualification. A recommendation and endorsement for full registration may be signed and dated only in the eighth term of supervised teaching, and no earlier. You must participate in the supervised induction and mentoring programme until the end of the eighth term.

Induction and mentoring (previously called advice and guidance) is the comprehensive and educative framework of support for provisionally registered teachers as they begin their teaching practice in real situations. The induction and mentoring programme should align with the Teachers Council’s Guidelines for Induction and Mentoring and Mentor Teachers.

Mentor teachers should be experienced, fully registered colleagues who are skilled, resourced with time, recognition and training to guide, support, give evidence-based feedback and to facilitate reflective learning conversations with the PRT (provisionally registered teacher).

Through this programme of support, the PRT, mentor and the professional leader will gather evidence of the progress being made by the PRT towards meeting the standard for full registration. At the end of the induction period, the professional leader is required to use this evidence to make a judgement that all the Registered Teacher Criteria have been met at a level of competence that gives confidence that the teacher should be accepted as a confirmed member of the profession.

The RTLB (Resource Teacher: Learning and Behaviour)

An RTLB works in schools providing support and assistance to teachers of students who are at risk of not achieving or achieving at a low level because of their learning or behaviour difficulties. This means an RTLB’s main aim is to improve what a student gains from their education.

RTLBs work very closely with the Ministry of Education, Special Education (GSE) specialists and support staff, but are employed by and based in schools. At present there are approximately 781 RTLBs working around New Zealand. Each RTLB generally works with a ‘cluster’ of schools. This means he or she does not necessarily work exclusively with students in the one school, but instead works with students in a group of schools situated near one another.

If a school thinks a student needs RTLB help, then they refer the student to a local committee of RTLBs, who then considers whether or not there is a need for RTLB assistance. If there is deemed to be a need, an RTLB is assigned to the student.

An RTLB’s work involves first assessing the needs of the student he or she is working with. This may include sitting in on classes the student attends, assessing the student’s work, asking the student’s teachers to provide information about their behaviour and learning, and observing the student’s relationships with their peers.

Once the RTLB has a good handle on how the student learns and any barriers he or she might have to learning, the RTLB then develops a learning programme that aims to overcome these barriers. They can work with the student individually, with groups of students, or with the school system as a whole to accomplish this.

An RTLB’s work may consist of teaching directly, demonstrating a practice to a teacher or teachers of a student, and/or providing some teaching strategies that may work for that particular student. They then monitor the process and progress of those involved.

Some RTLB positions are dedicated to focusing on the learning needs of Māori students. In some clusters an RTLB (Māori) may work entirely with kura kaupapa Māori or te reo immersion classes. Some are employed within a cluster and others work across more than one cluster. This initiative recognises the high number of Māori students experiencing learning and behaviour difficulties in regular schools in New Zealand.

Case Studies

Corinna Koehrer: the overseas trained teacher

I am a fully trained primary and secondary teacher from Germany who has taught in New Zealand for the past three years.

Changing countries always brings challenges. The employment progression as a teacher in Germany is very different from the one in New Zealand. As a teacher in Germany you are employed by the government. Once fully registered, teachers have a job for life and are usually allocated to different schools. You cannot change schools as you please or apply to a school directly.

Coming from Germany to New Zealand, this was probably one of my biggest challenges, frustrating and rewarding at the same time. Actively looking for a job and putting yourself out on the market is learning in progress. Each job interview added to my experience and helped to motivate me to present myself in different ways.

Once you are based in a school and somebody actually gives you a chance to get started, it is much easier to get a contract.

Teaching in Germany in general is very different as the children in primary school all start school on the same day each year in September. Therefore, they have one common starting point and teaching is less individualised.

Being confronted with new entrant students who start school on the day of their birthday was a big adventure for me. I guess my biggest and most rewarding learning curve has been in maths through the exposure to the numeracy project. To me this is an ideal way for teachers to assist students at their individual levels.

I found it easy to get into the everyday teaching routine. The harder part for me was all the administration that had to be done, including the different ways of testing children’s knowledge. This is very different from Germany, where the children receive marks from year 1 onwards. I definitely enjoy the freedom in New Zealand to assess a student’s progress in a helpful way without labelling them and being a guide on his learning path.

Registering with the New Zealand Teachers Council was not that hard as their website is very helpful. It can be a challenge to get all the paperwork together, especially if there are delays with your home country. I wish I could have had contact with other teachers coming from the same country, in order to get some help with the paper work. It can be hard to weather those times (in my case it was nearly three months) until you are first paid. All in all, bureaucracy is a challenge to deal with in any country and it all stands and falls with the people you work with. It makes a huge difference if people actually see a person behind a number.

I’d like to thank all those people who gave me a chance to get started and those who are lending me a helping hand on the exciting journey through the New Zealand education system.

Chloe Staveley: the newly qualified teacher

I was one of those little girls who, when asked what she wanted to do when she grew up, always responded with ‘be a teacher’. However, at age 16 my thoughts on the future began to change. Perhaps not surprisingly, my Year 12 biology teacher inspired my then latent passion for science.

In the last semester of my science degree, I was once again thinking about teaching. I was at a crossroads, torn between pursuing post-graduate biomedical science or teaching. I realised, after spending some days in a friend’s classroom, that teaching was where my heart still lay. I wanted to have the opportunity to inspire passions in others, like my biology teacher had in me. It now seemed the right time to teach.

After completing a postgraduate diploma in primary teaching in 2010, I was lucky enough to gain a job at Murrays Bay Intermediate School, teaching Year 7. And what an amazing year 2011 was.

I now do not think anything can fully prepare you for the journey that is teaching. Every day in the classroom is an adventure. Not only have I gained an array of knowledge about teaching, I have also learned about myself and the nature of very different people.

I have learned that the joy on a student’s face when he or she finally grasps something is priceless. I have learned that fun and learning should go hand in hand. I have learned that attitude is everything; it makes or breaks the classroom environment. I have learned that a good majority of parents think their children are angels. I have learned that there are not enough hours in the school day or even after school. I have learned that it does not matter how much planning you do, flexibility and adaptation are key, for with kids, things do not always run as planned!

Reflecting on 2011 I realise that I definitely made the right decision. Teaching is an absolute privilege and also a pleasure. As a teacher, I do not believe that you can ever know it all; that is the beauty of this occupation. You are inspiring learning as you continue to learn yourself.

Emma Tolmie: the returning teacher

Having taken time out to start and manage a business and then have children, it has been interesting coming back to realise how quickly teaching adapts and changes. It has helped that I have been on my children’s school’s board of trustees, in that when interviewing for a role as a new deputy principal I realised that I needed to up-skill. This process motivated me to do my postgraduate diploma in educational management and learning at Unitec full-time this year, while teaching part-time and doing relief teaching in the same school. This combination of study and relief teaching has significantly impacted my teaching development. When relieving other teachers, I have loved observing and experiencing the various styles of planning and curriculum delivery, as well as the classroom environments that different teachers use.

When I returned to teaching, it was interesting to note that not only had teaching changed, but I had also changed. During my first six years of teaching I had no children of my own. However, as I now have three delightful children, being a parent and involved with their lives has added to my development as a teacher. It also gives me a better understanding for colleagues who have pre-schoolers and what they may have had to go through to get to work that day. I can well remember leaving the house at 7.15am to drop the three children at day care, kindergarten and school, before heading to work myself. Now they are older and at school, it is much easier in so many ways; hence my enjoyment at being able to go back to work and study full-time.

Rea Martin: the RTLB

Rea Martin was an RTLB (Māori) based at Kaitao Middle School in Rotorua, a job she says she finds “challenging and rewarding”.

Martin received a TeachNZ award and is hugely grateful to TeachNZ. “I believe this study award enhanced me both personally and professionally in my career.”

Martin completed the Poutahu Whakaakoranga course at Te Wananga O Raukawa. Martin says the course fostered a teaching paradigm that incorporated Māori ideologies and world views. Assignments and lectures were the means for examining the students’ own whakapapa, culture, tribal histories and teaching practice. Martin was also impressed at the way in which Te Wananga o Raukawa promoted and fostered values (tikanga) that ensured respect and dignity prevailed on campus.

Martin credits her qualification for her promotion from a classroom teacher to a RTLB (Māaori) position. She has managed to incorporate her learning into her teaching practices through a more scrutinised approach to second language acquisition, particularly Māori. Martin says she has also become more aware of the importance of grammatical correctness when speaking and teaching te reo Māori. “Te Wananga o Raukawa gave me immeasurable confidence in speaking te reo Māori.”

Martin believes there is further scope for research in the areas of teaching methodologies, strategies and assessment tools to better cater for Māori learners, especially Māori boys.


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