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 New South Wales Nidy Durairaj, to talk about his experiences as a relief teacher.

We also hear from Belinda Douglass the Head Teacher Administration from Nepean Creative and Performing Arts High School about why they nominated Nidy and all that he brings to their school community.

Congratulations Nidy!

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Why did you decide to be a teacher?  

When I was in high school – one of my teachers – my history and geography teacher was really dedicated. He interested me with his great way of teaching and the way he looked after the students needs as well. That was the reason I decided to become a teacher, even though my parents wanted me to go with a different profession. 
What has brought you to do relief teaching?  

It’s really flexible, with less preparation for lesson plans. It’s a great opportunity to work with various faculties in different schools. If I was in full-time teaching, I would be stuck with the one department. I want to be useful to other departments as well. It’s a good start (being a casual teacher) so that I can end up with a permanent teaching job. I’m still looking for a permanent teaching job. 
How has relief teaching helped you grow as a teacher?  

Teaching is a broad area where we can learn every day to impact the students who are under our care. For teaching, there is no end to the growth at all – the teacher has to be a learner as well. We not only learn from the textbooks, we also learn from the students - because we are working with the students, not just with the information. Information can stay the same every day. Teachers learn to alter their teaching to cater for the needs of the children, depending on their moods, and emotions and feelings as well. 

What are the benefits and challenges of being a relief teacher for you? 

In terms of benefits, we can carry out the work already prepared by another teacher and we can modify the work according to the needs of the students, without putting more stress and pressure on the students. 

On the other hand, the challenges are that we can deal with the unfamiliar, behaviourally challenging students, which can be highly stressful.  

What is the best thing about being a relief teacher?  

I would say that the best thing is developing a relationship with the challenging students. 

A full-time teacher will see the behaviourally challenging students every day and somehow alter their approach beforehand, whereas as a relief teacher, going to different schools and different classes, we see different students all the time. Once a student knows the temperament of the relief teachers, they will be able to build up a relationship.  

I have been focusing on a few schools at the moment and they have been very supportive. Students can be very difficult at times but when I sit with them and they start doing the work, that makes me really happy.  

What advice would you give to other relief teachers?  

I would say for other teachers, from my point of view, to be always showing a willing heart to extend extra help. During the day, teacher may have emergency situations. What I do, in those situations, is to go and meet with the head teacher at recess and lunch and tell them that I’m always available. I say, ‘don’t worry about the extra classes, I’m happy to do that!’ so I would advise relief teachers to do what they can for the day. I don’t work for the money – money is not everything, it is something. 

If your students could describe you/your teaching style what do you think they would say? 

My students actually say that my handwriting is really, very neat. I even use different colours. I ask them what colour they can see clearly. I also write things on the board in such a way that students can understand it. I don’t write very complex sentences. Although I find instructions from the teachers, I’ll go through and write those instructions in a way that every student can understand. They [the students] say that my instructions are very clear.  

My handwriting is very neat though. That’s why my students appreciate me. They love to imitate my handwriting.  

Talk us through what it means to receive this award in recognition for your efforts as a relief teacher.  

I’m really very grateful. I’m not able to believe that I was chosen for this great award. I’m really, so excited. Really. I dedicate this award to my father who died last year. He was 104 years old. He was a very active person and my role model as well. He was only a primary school educated person – he never went to high school. He was always telling me and my siblings the right thing to do.  

Would you like to say anything further?

A big thank you for all your support, recognition, team effort and providing me the highest award in the state in the relief teaching industry.

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