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Making a difference a lesson well learnt

Published 04 Sep 2017

The impact one teacher made more than 30 years ago is still proving an inspiration for Burnadette French.

Her name was Betty Price.

"She was a cooking teacher, and she just went above and beyond to help me," Ms French said.

"It was a real struggle for me at the time, and she helped me to believe in myself.

"If it hadn't been for her I don't think I would have got through school.

"It just stuck with me, and I decided if I could make a difference for one child it would be well worth it."

Ms French is a teacher assistant, and has been making a difference in the lives of children and young people for three years at Rosebery District High School and at Wynyard High School for 11 years before that. 

"I now have adults come up to me and express their gratitude," she said.

"I have worked with special needs kids, but also disengaged kids, with social and emotional problems.

"I love a challenge."

Ms French recently graduated with a Diploma of Education Support under the Paraprofessional Development Initiative (reference).

The Department of Education has worked closely with the University of Tasmania to develop a suite of initiatives that maximise opportunities for teachers and teacher assistants, and the Paraprofessional Development Initiative is an important aspect of this formal partnership and the work of the Peter Underwood Centre.

Under this initiative teacher assistants have the opportunity to undertake a University of Tasmania course with the assistance of the Department. Participants study to gain a Diploma Education Support or Associate Degree Education Support.

This is a key investment that aims to advance and retain motivated and enthusiastic teacher assistants into roles where they are able to provide high level instructional or differentiated support, small group work and student supervision in a range of key areas including early childhood education, literacy and numeracy, and special education and behaviour support.

Ms French had previously completed six units of a teaching degree, and jumped at the chance to advance her skills.

"When this opportunity came up it was just too good to refuse," she said.

"It just gives you confidence and knowledge to facilitate a higher level of education support.

"You become really reflective in your practice and you can build on that."

Ms French said for teacher assistants to be recognised for their expertise and knowledge was "very gratifying."

"It makes us feel valued," she said.

Betty Price would be proud.