Education Award nominations were announced last week with a special teacher at Byford Secondary College becoming a finalist for the Education Support Teacher of the Year award.
Michelle Barrett is an Education Support teacher at the College who caters for the needs of the Indigenous students.
Ms Barrett said she was blown away to become a finalist for the awards.
“My role at the school is Indigenous Studies, so I’m an Education Assistant but my role is to take care of all the Indigenous students at the school,” she said.
“So, I run the Follow the Dream program and then I’m in the classroom three days a week watching over the kids that are struggling in the classroom, with Maths and English my main focus.”
Follow the Dream is a program run for Indigenous students at the school who are capable of pursuing tertiary education at University or similar.
Ms Barrett has been at the school since it opened in 2014 with her first role being as a Special Needs Education Assistant, before she moved into the Indigenous Studies role five years ago where she now caters for around 96 kids in the school.
“I love watching the kids who have little to no confidence in themselves and watching them with a little bit of attention or guidance and what they can achieve,” she said.
“Last week for example, I had three students where the teacher had said they were having difficulty getting some work done.
“So, I was able to pull them out of class and took them to the Follow the Dream room and what they came up with at the end, they did such an amazing job and they were so respectful and proud of themselves as well.
“It just took that bit of encouragement and someone supporting them.
Ms Barrett said that due to having the role of education assistant as opposed to a teacher, she builds a rapport with the students and develops a trust with them.
“The kids trust me and I trust them, they know I really want them to do well and so they try hard for me and I work hard for them,” she said.
“I get a lot out of it, more than anything it’s that the kids have achieved something they didn’t think they could do.”
Another student was having trouble completing an assignment where they had to write a profile on a soldier from World War II.
“The teacher came to me and asked how they could get him to complete the assignment,” she said.
“So, I asked if they could let him do it on someone Indigenous involved in World War II and we created a poster together.
“The teacher came to me and said she was so excited and happy that he’d done anything for the assignment but he just produced such an amazing poster with some really good information.”
Ms Barrett said the School Committee nominated her for the award and the School Principal told her they would do an application on her behalf.
“I’ve got such a rewarding job, and I am just so lucky I have such an amazing relationship with these kids.”