Teachers Mutual Bank and ClassCover are delighted to present the first ever Relief Teacher of the Year Award, designed to recognise excellence within our relief teacher community.
In this article we interview the winner for Queensland Amanda Barry, to talk about her experiences as a relief teacher.
We also hear from Andrew the Assistant Principal from St John Fisher College from Bracken Ridge about why he nominated Amanda and all that she brings to their school community.
Why did you decide to be a teacher?
Teaching is such a rewarding profession, knowing that you can make a difference in someone life, to help guide them in sometimes their hardest years. I remember that I’ve always wanted to do primary school teaching and that was a big nod to my Year 5 and 6 teacher. She seemed to kind of stick with me. When I went back to uni in my mid 20’s, I did secondary teaching, so now I get the best of both worlds. Not only do I do relief at secondary, I also do a bit of relief work at some primary schools – I get the big kids and the little kids. It’s really rewarding, and I just love it.
What has brought you to do relief teaching?
When I graduated, relief teaching sort of fit into my lifestyle at that time. I was raising my son by myself so it gave me the flexibility that I needed. I’m pretty grateful that I started off with relief teaching because it’s also given me the skills I’ve needed so that when I do become a full-time teacher, I’ve got strategies in place to help any student, in any classroom, at any school.
How has relief teaching helped you grow as a teacher?
Relief teaching has given me a lot of confidence, not only in the classroom, but also in my ability as a teacher. It’s given me experience in dealing with all types of students, all types of schools, their communities and leadership teams. Every school is different and I think relief teaching has helped me to go into any classroom and adapt to any situation. I think being able to adapt to any classroom is a vital part of teaching. Day to day, I don’t think you ever know how each student is going to be. I love that one day I could be teaching Year 12 Legal Studies and Grade 1 the next because obviously, the teaching strategies are going to be very different and without doing relief teaching I wouldn’t have those strategies.
What are the benefits and challenges of being a relief teacher for you?
The benefits of relief teaching far out ways the challenges.
I believe the students can get the very best of me every day as I don't have all the extra pressures that are put on teachers today. Working in different schools and with different students allows me to have a huge variety of strategies and plans in place to deal with almost any situation.
I love how I get students asking me if they have me today and being happy when I say ‘yes’ or disappointed when I say ‘no’. It is a nice feeling to know that they want you in their classroom.
Behaviour is one challenge you face when relief teaching. Some students believe they can get away with things they couldn't with their full-time teacher. They can be quite disruptive at times, so it is important to let them know your expectations at the start, especially if teaching them for the first time.
What is the best thing about being a relief teacher?
I think the best thing [about being a relief teacher] is that you get to meet different types of students. You also learn, and get to work, with different types of teachers and I think they help you to grow. I love working with unfamiliar kids who have disabilities or struggles. Through personal experience, those are my favourite types of kids to work with. Then you have your high achievers that can sometimes give you a run for your money, especially when you’re teaching subjects you’re not so comfortable with.
I get to teach a wide range of subjects – normally my subjects are Legal Studies, Business Studies and IT but I teach a lot of maths, HPE and Home Economics. You don’t know what each day is going to bring and I love those kinds of situations. I love being thrown in and going, ‘Here you go, this is what you’ve got today. Let’s see what you can do’. It’s how I thrive.
What advice would you give to other relief teachers?
I think that as relief teachers, we’re pretty fortunate not to have the ‘hustle and bustle’ that full-time teachers have. I think that allows us to bring the best of ourselves to the classroom each day. Take advantage of that because as a full-time teacher, it isn’t always as easy with so many other things going on.
I would also encourage relief teachers to learn from every experience, every interaction, every rewarding day, every challenging day or situation, as it will lead you to being a better teacher. I think for anyone in this profession, that’s what we’re striving to do. We’re striving to better ourselves so we can be the best for our students. It’s important.
If your students could describe you/your teaching style what do you think they would say?
This one is tough. If I had to use some words, I suppose – I’m relaxed, I’m fair, I can be tough when needed, I think I give 100 percent... and they would definitely say that I always make them do their work.
No matter what, I get the work done.
Talk us through what it means to receive this award in recognition for your efforts as a relief teacher.
Just to be nominated is a huge achievement. To know that people have taken the time out of their busy days to make a nomination really means the world to me. It makes me feel very valued as a member of a school community and let's me know that what I do doesn’t go unnoticed.
What would you like to say to the nominating school, Teachers Mutual Bank and ClassCover?
I’m so grateful and I feel very blessed to receive this award, It's a huge honour. I’d like to say thank you to the school, BCE (Brisbane Catholic Education), ClassCover and Teachers Mutual Bank... for giving me this amazing opportunity and award. I’m am truly touched.
Andrew McEwan, Assistant Principal from St John Fisher College on Amanda
Having met her and having engaged her a number of times, I learnt pretty quickly that she was something special. She very quickly responds to changes which are inevitable in a school. I would say one of her greatest skills is adaptive agility. She’s always happy to go above and beyond the call of duty to get things done and most importantly, to support our students.
She is very reliable, dependable and very importantly, she’s very resilient. Shes’ a humanities teacher by trade and she’s always happy to bring that expertise into the classes she takes. She’s very thorough, she always follows the classroom teacher’s instructions to the letter and goes above and beyond to provide extra feedback.