Vanessa | Howick

“My first boss at my workplace at MIT, who gave me the opportunity to do the job I do now.

At the time I had no qualifications and I’ve been there for 20 years, and I’m very privileged to teach people English, and I’ve met lots of interesting people. She gave me encouragement. She let me try things. She just gave me great feedback and just believed in me when I had no real experience or qualification, and gave me that opportunity, I think.

I grew up in England. I’m from England. I’ve lived in New Zealand 30-odd years. My family are really important to me, and my children and now I’ve got six grandchildren. So presently they’ve been important and the people that I teach and help along their journey in New Zealand; that’s been really important, that I’ve been a part of their lives to help them get to where they want to be, and sometimes when I bump into them and they’ve got jobs and they’ve now got their own families, and I taught them when they were younger. So that’s been really important.

There are certain roles that you could perhaps say that are more male dominated and that women probably can do just as well. Vice versa; there’s woman’s roles that women do, and men could probably do it just as well too. She didn’t really, she didn’t train me, she just could see. I always tell this story to my students, that I just took my CV in, instead of seeing her. Instead of just sending in my CV, I took it in personally, and I just happened to bump into her, and I sat and chatted to her for an hour and a half, and then she said, look it’s not my place to give you a job, but come and see the person that’s responsibility for that the next day. And I came back the next day. Same thing; I was in there for an hour and a half, and they gave me a job, even though there were other people far more highly qualified. They just saw my passion, my personality and gave me that big opportunity.

I teach English in the community. I used to just teach at MIT, but I actually also teach literacy and numeracy, which is another thing that I’ve learned to do in the last five years. I’ve taught for example, Mahitahi which is Māori mental health. That’s true literacy; helping them to understand reading and maths and people that they may have not done so well at school, just teaching them about spelling and root words.

Why do I do it?  I actually have been teaching ex-prisoners as well, which I also find really rewarding, especially if some of them turn their lives around, which they have, but maybe they’re in their 50s. I just find it fulfilling. It’s rewarding for me to know that I’ve played, or I feel that I’ve played a part in those people getting on in life, for example with the ex-prisoners. It was teaching them job skills about writing covering letters, CVs, about transferrable skills, and just you know, watching them. Some of those people went on to study. So  just that helping other people get to where they want to be.”

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