Kia ora koutou.
In light of the change in Covid-19 Alert levels last night, we want to reassure our students that we remain open under Alert Level 2. All BTI courses will continue being taught on campus in Tauranga and by distance.
As our CEO and Dean Dr Andrew Butcher says, "We have been here before, BTI has a plan and we know what to do. Much more than this: we have a great and good God, who looks after us in the grandeur and in the detail, who provides for us in everything and who reminds us that always and everywhere for this we have Jesus."
Teacher Education students:
Social Work and Practice students:
All students should continue to follow the latest guidance from the government, including:
Please continue to play your part in keeping everyone safe by washing your hands, staying home if feeling unwell, scanning QR codes when you come onto campus, and maintaining physical distancing.
We understand that this is an upsetting time and can increase anxiety levels and stress for students and whanau. Please talk to one of our staff if you have any questions or concerns, or call 1737 at any time to talk to someone.
More information on the Covid-19 Alert levels and what this means can be found on covid19.govt.nz
Congratulations to Soteria Mulipola - Samu who was awarded a KUPE Scholarship (for Māori and Pasifika High Achievers) at a ceremony held in Wellington last week. 30 recipients have been selected to receive this prestigious scholarship which recognises applicants for their accomplishments and for their desire and ability to become outstanding role models in early childhood, primary or secondary education.
Soteria Mulipola- Samu is currently studying at BTI towards a Graduate Diploma of Teaching (Secondary).
For BTI, delivering a qualification is about preparing the student for life as a graduate in their chosen profession so that they will be successful at gaining employment and transforming lives. To this end, we work with industry stakeholders to ensure that our programmes are fit for purpose; that our graduates are sought after.
Our 2014 graduation survey shows that 86.77% of BTI students are employed in a job that is linked to their qualification at the time of graduation.
Bachelor of Counselling graduates reported that 83% of them were employed, an increase of 7% on 2013 outcomes.
90.2% of Teacher Education graduates were employed in schools, with 83% of students graduating with a degree in primary teaching having secured a job. This is an increase of 18% on 2013.
88% of students who graduated with BTI’s Graduate Diploma of Teaching (Secondary) degree in 2014 were employed by the time that they graduated, and it is further encouraging to note that our research shows that of those graduating in 2014, 44% were offered a job in either their ‘Host school’ or a school at which they carried out a practicum experience. This shows that BTI is teaching the skills required in the programme to meet the needs of industry.
Our graduate job outcomes for 2014 are particularly encouraging as the current national trend for those graduating with a degree in Primary and Secondary teaching is significantly lower. Our evidence, based on student and stakeholder feedback, shows us that BTI’s commitment to growing students both holistically and academically, stretching them towards excellence, is outworked by students whilst on practicum and witnessed by employers.
The skills that graduates learn at BTI are not just focussed on the specific practice skills required, ie “teaching”, “counselling”, “social work”, they also learn transferrable skills such as working in teams, problem solving, communication and accountably. We believe that this is imperative if we are to ensure that our graduates are educated for roles that may not yet be available to them in NZ. This approach helps to ‘future-proof’ our graduates and makes them highly attractive to stakeholders, many of whom recognise these skills at the time of practicum or ‘Host school’ experience.
2014 is a year that BTI will remember for quite some time to come; not only is it our coming of age, it is also the year in which NQZA gave approval for BTI to deliver two new qualifications:
* Postgraduate Diploma of Professional Practice
* Master of Professional Practice
The added significance of this approval is that, not only is this BTI's first step into postgraduate programme delivery, but that the whole approval process from submission to approval took just over 12 weeks!
In responding to the submission, the NZQA approval panel commended BTI on the following:
* The integration of research throughout the whole programme, incorporating a broad range of research methodologies.
* The level of staff qualification and research experience.
* The example provided by senior staff in combining programme development, teaching and research involvement with the leadership roles.
* The comprehensive consultation process, which was iterative, broad and meaningful, and which clearly influenced development.
* The well designed integrated approach to research supported by committee structure, strategic plan and professional development.
* The inclusion of an exegesis option for the thesis.
* The successful integration of the faith-based special character of BTI with the academic rigour required at
post-graduate level without compromising either.
BTI Dean, Dr Andrew Smith, says the qualification is specifically faith-based and is for any professional working in people-helping roles such as teaching, counselling, social work or occupational therapy and who wants to look at integrating faith and work, “This doesn’t mean postgraduate students will be working in a
Christian school or church. It just means they want to think about what it means to bring their faith to work.”
The qualification consists of 18 months’ equivalent full time study, but will be completed on a part time basis across three years allowing students to integrate study with their professional practice.
“We are going to be provoking students to look at themselves and think about who they are as professionals. They will then look at some of the principles that they bring to the workplace. Often people get involved in these sorts of roles without necessarily clearly articulating the principles that we work from.”
BTI has also woven research aspects throughout the whole qualification which is an innovative approach to postgraduate study.
The programme, which is expected to fill quickly due to a waiting list of eager would-be students, will be delivered for the first time in early 2015.
On Saturday 5th April 2014, as the glorious hot sunshine beat down on Tauranga, shoppers paused to acknowledge 125 graduands decked out in the gold and blue colours that represent BTI's Teacher Education and Counsellor Education programmes. The celebratory processsion, which commenced at the waterfront at 1.15pm, was led by a piped band and cheered on by friends, family and whanau lining Devonport Road.
Deputy Major, Kelvin Clout, joined an impressive crowd of almost 800 to celebrate BTI's 2014 Graduation ceremony at Holy Trinity Church. As always, there was a strong sense of community spirit evident, and a number of the graduands were publicly honoured with tributes from whanau and family.
This graduation was especially important for BTI, as it marked the largest number of Secondary Teaching students to graduate in one group in BTI's 21 year history. 25 students, who had studied the Graduate Diploma of Teaching (Secondary) programme by distance, from all around New Zealand, came together in celebration with 76% of this cohort already having secured jobs; 40% of which are in their 'Host School'. The national average for Secondary graduates gaining employment after graduation is closer to 30%!
Al Ronberg, pictured centre in this main photo, says of the Secondary programme, "When you study at BTI, you become a part of a family - you get the feeling that YOUR OWN personal success is something that EVERYONE on staff is working towards. They give you a long leash and continually personalise the course to your individual subject requirements and personality. The jewel in the crown is their ingenious Host-School model in Secondary Teacher training."
These photos show some of the 'behind the scenes' moments that were captured on the day.
BTI is developing a Master of Professional Practice (M Prof Prac) - an 18-month, full time equivalent, qualification designed for Christian professionals working in fields such as education sectors (ECE, Primary, Secondary, Tertiary) and social service, including Counselling.
We are delighted to confirm that the proposal has now been finalised and submitted to NZQA for approval. This can be a reasonably long process, but we hope to have approval by Term 4 of this year so that we can welcome the first cohort in 2015!
To find our more about our proposed Masters qualification, or to register your interest, CLICK HERE.
BTI is delighted to announce that we will be hosting author, Paul Young, and theologian, Baxter Kruger, in January 2014.
Experience this rare opportunity - come and linger in the love of God. Evening event and day retreat available, with prices starting at just $5!
Read more and to book online: http://www.bti.ac.nz/the-shack.html
"This simple story confirmed and validated the way in which I think and
relate to God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. This book was life altering and truly wonderful. My understanding is that the author originally wrote it for his children. Love God, Love The Shack!"
BTI celebrated 20 years this weekend with a celebratory dinner at Mills Reef, attended by students, alumni, staff, VIPs and other key stakeholders, including Hon Simon Bridges, MP for Tauranga, and the Mayor of Tauranga, Stuart Crosby.
The evening was full of laughter, recognition of service, student awards and an inspirational speech by well known journalist, Rob Harley. Read more...
Everyone knows there is something special about BTI, but trying to put your finger on exactly what it is can prove tricky. Kathryn Overall takes up the challenge of exploring the relational learning culture that makes the BTI study experience so unique.
In recently published Government league tables, highlighting student performance across the tertiary sector, local Tauranga provider Bethlehem Tertiary Institute has proven that it can punch above its weight by out-performing all 18 institutes of technology /polytechnics and holding its own against the university sector.
Locally, BTI topped both the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic and the University of Waikato in two of the four categories measured; course completions (89%) and qualification completions (87%), and matched the course completion outcome of the best performing university, Otago.
BTI’s dean, Dr Andrew Smith, attributes the successful results to dedicated staff and the institute’s
commitment to quality education, “These results affirm our quality teaching, which is informed by recognised research and supported by a staff dedicated to student success. Over the past few years, BTI has seen an increasing number of students studying some or all of their papers at a distance, as they balance work and home commitments with study, and so we are particularly encouraged by our student retention results when compared to other providers of distance learning.”
The Tertiary Education Commission releases these figures each year to help students make informed
decisions when choosing a tertiary provider. Tertiary Education Minister, Steven Joyce, said the data showed that New Zealand tertiary institutes were performing well, with qualification completion rates improving across all sectors.
BTI offers qualifications in early childhood education, primary and secondary teaching, and counselling and
social work. A Master of Professional Practice qualification is currently under development for delivery
in 2014, subject to NZQA approval.
To read more about these results, visit the TEC website.
** Hot Off The Press **
We are delighted to bring you this year's Forward Magazine. Filled with a potpouri of articles, this third edition includes:
Hayden Reid: Bringing His Game To The Classroom
Charter Schools: Why Are They So Controversial?
How Do You Thrive As A New Secondary Teacher?
The DNA of BTI's Relational Learning Culture
Strengths Based Leadership
A Week In The Life Of A Third Year Counselling Student
2014 Programmes and Key Dates
Train to be a teacher at BTI and transform lives...
Ever wondered why BTI graduates make such an impact? Check this out....
Downtown Tauranga shoppers paused to cheer a procession of 115 Bethlehem Tertiary Institute (BTI) graduates decked out in blue and gold on Saturday. The graduates had achieved degrees and diplomas from BTI’s teaching and counselling programmes. The celebratory procession commenced from Red Square at 1.30pm and proceeded up Devonport Road to Holy Trinity Anglican Church where the ceremony took place.
Local dignitaries joined with families of the graduates to form a crowd of around 700 people. There was a supportive atmosphere and strong sense of community spirit evident, with a number of graduates being publicly honoured with tributes from whanau and local hapu.
This year’s graduation ceremony held special significance as 2013 marks BTI’s 20th anniversary as a tertiary provider. During his graduation address, BTI Dean, Dr Andrew Smith paid tribute to the visionaries who began the special work at BTI and to the dedication of the staff and lecturers who continue it. Reflecting on the achievements of the last 20 years he said, “I believe we can stand tall as we look at the calibre of our graduates, as we consider the proportion of graduates who get jobs in their chosen field, especially in times of economic challenge, and as we reflect on the quality and influence of research that comes from the institute. Most importantly, I want to acknowledge the grace of God at work in BTI. Without Him, we produce nothing, without Him we have nothing, without Him we are nothing.”
During the ceremony, special attention was given to BTI’s involvement with a group of student teachers who live in refugee camps on the Thailand/Burmese border. “Given the political changes currently happening in Burma it is an exciting time to be involved in the support of an ethnic group seeking to re-establish its educational system,”said Dr Smith.
BTI alumnus, Graeme Cook, who is living and teaching in the refugee camps with his wife Kendal, returned to Tauranga to give the Graduate Address. During his presentation, he shared a moving slide show of images of the refugee student teachers holding up pieces of cardboard on which were written statements of hope and resilience.
Dr Lynton Baird, a PhD who graduated from BTI’s Graduate Diploma of Teaching (Secondary) programme, said he enjoyed celebrating with his lecturers and fellow graduates on Saturday. Dr Baird, who holds a PhD in Organic Chemistry, is now teaching chemistry and science at Wairarapa College in Masterton. “I love it and find it much more rewarding than research,” he said. “Learning science will open many doors for my students in the future, even if they can't see that now. I want to help shape students that are empathetic, peacemakers, and care for their neighbours and the creation.”
Dr Baird and many of his secondary teaching cohort at BTI were offered teaching jobs before they had even completed their training. “We are thrilled to see our secondary teaching students in such demand,” said Dr Smith. “Their strong performance in practicum placements is clearly opening doors for them.”
BTI began as Bethlehem Teachers College in 1993 with 1 full time lecturer and 15 students. In 2013, BTI has 450 students throughout New Zealand, and also in Australia, Tonga and Thailand, 40 permanent staff and more than a dozen programmes across counselling, social work and all spheres of teacher education.
Pictured: Some of BTI's 2013 Graduate Diploma of Teaching (Secondary) Graduates, along with Programme Coordinator, Barbara Caygill (front left), and Peter Maslin who teaches in the progamme (back row, second from the left).
Not many people can say that gaining a PhD in Organic Chemistry was an incidental happening on the way to a secondary teaching career, but that’s Dr Lynton Baird’s story and he’s sticking to it!
During his own high-school years Lynton was blessed with not one, but two inspirational science teachers. They had both had plenty of life experience prior to becoming teachers and thus had many interesting stories to share with their students. From those years onwards, Lynton imagined that he would become a science teacher but was determined to experience life and gain some stories of his own first. It’s safe to say he has achieved that goal.
Dr Lynton is graduating in Tauranga this weekend along with the rest of his cohort. He holds the honour of being the first person with a PhD to graduate from BTI’s Graduate Diploma of Teaching (Secondary).
We caught up with Lynton to find out how his first teaching role is going and to hear a bit more about his interesting career path.
We imagine that secondary teaching would not be part of the usual career path for someone with a PhD in Organic Chemistry. Can you tell us about why you decided to become a teacher?
Ever since high school I imagined that I would become a secondary school teacher. I had two science teachers in particular who inspired me to that profession. I really enjoyed chemistry at school, which lead to me doing my Honours degree at Otago University in chemistry. I enjoyed the initial taste of research during my last year, so I applied for a couple of research jobs and PhD scholarships. I was awarded a scholarship for a research project at Victoria University and moved up to Wellington.
After 3.5 years hard slog, I finished my synthesis of Aigialomycin D and was happy to graduate. I carried on with research for a couple years at the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research before deciding it was time for a break. My wife and I spent a year overseas volunteering for A Rocha, a Christian Conservation group, in Canada and Kenya.
When we arrived back in New Zealand, I found some temporary research work at Industrial Research Limited in Lower Hutt. Despite being offered a long-term contract, I felt that God was leading me to teaching. In New Zealand there are very limited roles for lecturers that solely teach and thus secondary school was where I was to go.
Thus I guess I was probably always going to do teaching, the PhD was just incidental on the way. :-)
What motivates you as a teacher?
I am motivated to empower students through their learning. Learning science will open many doors for them in future, even if they can't see that now. I am motivated by the look on student's faces when they finally get something or when they do really well on an assessment. I am motivated to help shape students that are empathetic, peacemakers, and care for their neighbours and the creation. I am passionate about helping students understand how our amazing world works.
We understand you were offered a job before you even finished your training. How did that come about?
Jobs came up at two of the schools that I had practicums at. I was offered both a physics and chemistry job in the same week. I think this was a month or so before the end of the course. Since chemistry was my passion and the job was in Masterton where I grew up, I decided to take that job. It was a privilege to be able to choose between two jobs though.
What has your teaching experience been like so far?
I am teaching chemistry and science at Wairarapa College in Masterton. I love it and find it much more rewarding than research. I am teaching a Yr10 science, two Yr11 science and Yr12 chemistry. I love it when they are engaged and asking lots of questions, even when I don't know the answers. My greatest challenge is classroom management and engaging students when they don't have any interest in science.
What was your study experience at BTI like?
I loved my time at BTI. The lecturers really cared for you and supported you through the course. The small numbers meant that you get to really know many of your classmates even though it was a distance course. I loved the intensive courses and the Noho Marae experience. I really enjoyed much of the course work, especially learning to teach from a Christian perspective. Totally recommend it.
CLICK HERE to find out more about how you can embark on a life-changing secondary teaching career with BTI.
As we approach Graduation 2013 on April 13th, we look at life after BTI. This interview highlights Dan Clarke, who graduated with a Graduate Diploma in Teaching (Secondary) from BTI in 2011.
After finishing school Dan gained a Sport and Exercise degree and worked in the health and fitness sector for around 12 years, managing health clubs and teaching fitness in a range of settings.
In one of those life-interrupting moments, Dan was made redundant in 2009. Finding himself in circumstances beyond his control was the catalyst for a time of soul searching and praying about where he should next direct his focus and energy. “I always knew that I was drawn to teaching in some form,” explains Dan. “Through my experiences in the health and fitness industry I taught a lot, whether it was management, group fitness instruction or one on one training and I decided to give secondary teaching a go.”
Dan was accepted into BTI’s Graduate Diploma of Teaching (Secondary) and began with a two week intensive in Feb 2010. “The training at BTI exceeded my expectations,”says Dan. “I’ve learnt a lot, the material has been excellent. I found within the first week that it was definitely where God wanted me to be. The biblical focus that was part of the whole learning environment was huge for me - it just brought fullness and that spiritual dimension which I think is one of the most important components to teaching.
Dan loves his role as a full-time Physical Education (PE) secondary teacher at Bethlehem College. Andy Bartrum (Bethlehem College PE Teacher) selected Dan for the position based on his previous experience with him and his natural fit with Bethlehem College. “During Dan’s last practicum he really looked like he belonged here and was part of the furniture. His honesty, integrity and willingness to put God first and go along for the ride made it an easy choice. You can see the shine on a good BTI graduate and by choosing one of them we are ensuring the values and beliefs that the school adheres to are coming through in our new teachers.”
Dan enjoys seeing the lights of understanding go on for his students, and the challenge of finding things that they are passionate about to motivate their learning in other areas.
Perhaps what motivates him more than anything else is the opportunity to influence the young men under his
tutelage. Dan explains, “I am quite passionate about providing an environment or an atmosphere where I can inspire and motivate them to make wise decisions; give them tools that they can take away and hopefully make choices that will ensure they won’t waste any unnecessary time. They can make a decision, which can change the trajectory of their path so I am quite motivated and passionate about ensuring that they are at least informed. Then they can go from a place where they are aware of the impact their decisions will have on their life later on.”
Ever wondered what it's like to study at BTI? First year student, Eru Tukaki, shares his initial thoughts as he embarks upon his three years of study at BTI.
"Coming in to the Bachelor of Education (Primary) course I had no idea of what to expect. The desire to be a teacher was there, but there were questions I still needed answered. Here I am 3 weeks into lectures and study and all my questions have been answered. The lecture content is high quality and being a small campus means class sizes are not too full therefore interaction with lecturers is simple.
BTI online is another amazing tool that we have at our disposal, it makes life so much easier. If that is not enough well then there are other onsite services that are there to make the journey a whole lot more enjoyable and a little easier. Last of all a big mihi to all the lecturers that play a part in our development as teachers, I am grateful for the time and effort that goes in to the lectures, no names in particular because you are all fantastic. BTI is a quality tertiary provider and I would recomend them to anyone looking at studying here in the future.
As we approach Graduation 2013 on April 13th, we look at life after BTI. This first interview highlights Edward (Ed) Nikora who graduated with a Graduate Diploma in Teaching (Secondary) from BTI in 2009. His heart and life are a shining example of the values that BTI holds dear, and it was with great pleasure that we invited Ed as a guest speaker at our 2011 Graduation Ceremony. His address was inspirational! Kathryn Overall caught up with Ed on graduation day to find out more about his story.
Ed has a sense of purpose about everything that he does. A passion for the Kingdom of God is strongly evident in everything he puts his hand to, and his vocation as a teacher is a wonderfully integrated extension of this passion. As well as being a catalyst for personal development, Ed’s teaching journey has opened doors into unexpected opportunities.
Originally coming from a performing arts background, Ed wasn’t content to just keep his gifts and skills to himself. Ed says “I had this real passion and desire to be able to share what it was that I knew, and to try and get students as enthused as I am about the subjects that I love and teach.”
In 2009, Ed completed the secondary teacher training programme at BTI. He appreciated the approach taken by his lecturers. “In that campus, and through the influence of my natural and spiritual family, I was able to learn how to best outwork my Christianity in any schooling system” explains Ed, “I could be at a public school that has little or no belief in Christ and still be Christ in that school and they taught me how to
do that all without having to wear my‘I love Jesus’ bumper sticker on my front. They helped me to be Christ in the best possible way that I can for my students.”
Ed is convinced that the key to truly influencing and inspiring people is through relationship and he loves the lasting connections that he has with students.“One of the key things about teaching is that it’s never just about what you know,” he explains. “There’s so much in the relationship building that takes place between the teacher and student that is just pure and utter gold. I love the fact that students from two years ago will call out to me, because there was something about the way we related to one another that has inspired them.”
No stranger to change or challenge, Ed spent a year teaching English at a decile ten school after graduating, before changing direction completely and going to teach in a decile one school. Despite the huge contrast in teaching environment, Ed comments, “The challenges were the same. Young people are the same regardless of how wealthy or not they are. What I found is that young people desire relationship, like most of us, so that was my bridge for working with these types of young people.”
These experiences have culminated in Ed working as a trainer for the Ministry of Social Development. In this role he works with and trains staff who work with youth offenders and abused children, helping them to understand the thinking of the youth they are seeking to help.
Currently working at a regional level, long-term Ed has his eyes set on a national level, desiring to positively influence the key decision makers. “I feel that if we can tap into the thinking of the people at the higher levels, then that will filter down,” says Ed.
Go Ed! We champion you from the and believe for God’s favour and grace to be with you in all of your efforts.
**HOT OFF THE PRESS**
Check out our new television commercial; it's being aired soon on SHINE TV!
The connection between secondary teaching and professional rugby may not seem immediately obvious for some people, but for Hayden Reid, the transition from a professional rugby career into teaching was a natural one. A talented player and passionate about rugby, Hayden graduated from Otago University, having played for the Otago NPC rugby team the ‘Highlanders’ in his last year. He went on to play for the New Zealand Sevens, travelling the world and in his words, “getting paid to do something I love”.
During the last four years of his professional career, Hayden and his wife were living in Italy. It was during this time that Hayden realised his own strong inclination to mentor; “My last few years of playing professional rugby I found myself gravitating towards the younger players – a lot of my time was spent not on myself but actually trying to help them become better, trying to help them become better at rugby, how to become better young men.” It was at this point that his next career step became obvious for Hayden. He says; “I thought what profession would be better where you could to it every day? Where you are involved with young people’s lives - making a difference for them, coaching them through life and education and that’s what led me to secondary school teaching.”
Having completed the Graduate Diploma of Teaching (Secondary) at BTI, Hayden is now teaching at Tauranga Boys College - teaching Math and Physical Education. He says; “I’ve found that teaching is a challenging and big learning curve. There are a lot of things that I’ve learnt from rugby about being in a team, about helping the younger people that does translate into teaching. I think it will be a lifetime of learning. Every day is different, every period is different, and every student is different. So the variety and challenge of that is ongoing.”
Reflecting on his training at BTI, Hayden says; “...what stands out to me is the heart of the people who ran the courses. What they were trying to convey was what’s in your heart, the person that you are in your own personal life, the person that you are with your family – that’s the person that is going to come through in your teaching. Hayden found BTI’s holistic approach helpful in the way it tied a link between the personal and professional. He affirms; “BTI is a great place to study, it is a great place to learn your craft of teaching. They instill a lot of confidence in you..they give you the confidence to believe that you do have a lot to offer once you get out there teaching. I’d say that the course is a full-on year, they expect a lot of you... you do get heaps out of it.”
It is obvious that Hayden cares a lot about the students he teaches. He comments, “What I am passionate about is that every day, basically every class I look at the student and I think what sort of teacher do I want to be? The biggest thing is that they’ll feel encouraged, maybe sometimes inspired. There is a real lack of encouragement – a lot of them are hearing messages about what they can’t do, about what they aren’t so that would be my fundamental, over-arching goal young people in my care – to encourage them.”
When asked what further drives him as a teacher, Hayden says “What motivates me is God, I am motivated to be a Godly man in the classroom and to be someone that does know God and to role-model that – serving the kids, looking after them. That’s a big part of what I believe is my purpose in relation to being a teacher and also in life.”
With his passion for encouraging and educating young people, it would seem that Hayden continues to be paid for doing what he loves in his new found profession.
CLICK HERE to watch our interview with Hayden Reid.
Graham Cook, who recently graduated with a BTI primary teaching degree, will next week travel to Thailand, to spend 6 months in the refugee camps as BTI’s on- the-ground representative. It’s not your average first time teaching position, but then Graham is not your average guy. Three years ago, Graham left a dream job in adventure tourism in order to study to become a primary teacher. “I was working in the Bay of Islands,” explains Graham. “Life was pretty easy. For me everything was free from the top of the North to the bottom of the South. It was all very easy, and it was boring, you know. I needed more.”
After some reflection, Graham realised that teaching was that ‘more’. He says, “When people asked me why I wanted to teach I would say, ‘I want to teach the children nobody else wants, you know the ones who have been left behind by the system.’ Here I am three and a half years later, and I’m going to teach children in a refugee camp who have been persecuted by a regime. I was kind of thinking small, and God sort of blew that out of the water. That’s why I teach – to give hope to children.”
Graham knows that he is going into a difficult environment, and it’s clear he has done his homework on the history of the region. “Burma is the second most corrupt country in the world…and it’s also the second poorest nation in Asia behind Afghanistan,” he explains. “There’s currently 180,000 people in the refugee camps, 44,000 children, and they have had to endure all sorts of things from systematic torture, rape, forced labour camps - any war atrocity that you can name…so it’s a pretty troubled region. They are wanting to try and raise up some teachers in these camps to help all of these people.”
Graham has worked and saved the necessary money to support himself in Thailand for the duration of his time there. After all his planning, and despite the natural nerves surrounding a plunge into the unknown, Graham is feeling ready to go. “I’m feeling excited. Excited, nervous, anxious – afraid in a good way but trusting 100% in God that he has my best interests at heart, and he has things for me to do there.”
Graham has set up a travel blog where he will post updates as often as possible. While he does not need any financial support himself, Graham is going to let us know if there are any resources that the students need, and set up a way where people can donate money towards fulfilling those needs if it is on their heart to do so.
During the busy last semester of her primary teaching degree, Rachael Wood’s focus was on completing assignments, not on looking for jobs. So naturally, when Bethlehem College advertised a teaching position in October, to begin with Rachael didn’t give it a moment’s thought. “ I had no intention of applying that early. I was so bogged down with assignments I couldn’t think of anything worse than having to try and get my CV organized as well,” smiles Rachael.
Apparently God has other ideas however, as soon Rachael began to feel a very strong tug to apply for the Year 7 teaching role. “I felt really, really called and pulled to it,” reflects Rachael. This sense of call gave her the impetus she needed to complete her CV and apply for the job. Within a very short period of time she had been interviewed for and offered the position and was able to finish out her studies with the security of already having a job to walk into when she graduated.
Rachael is now settling into the rhythms and routines of her first year of teaching. “I think coming into Bethlehem College as a school has been great. The staff is awesome,” says Rachael. “They are really helpful - I’m just surrounded by a wonderful team. I love getting to know the students. They are all unique and beautiful and I’ve got a really lovely multicultural class.”
The transition from student to teacher can be a demanding one, and Rachael’s advice to first year teachers to give themselves the space they need to settle into their new role. She says, “Clear your calendar so that when you start you don’t have too many outside things on. I think dedicating the first 3 or 4 weeks purely just to work and sleep will be more than enough! You also need to be prepared to be flexible going into a new school. Have a few things up your sleeve definitely, but also just be ready to run with whatever the school is doing. That’s just part of it. It’s a rollercoaster ride!”
During the three years of her degree Rachael explored and engaged with concepts of Christian education, and is enjoying the process of living out that learning in her first classroom. “I think everything that I’ve learned at BTI about Christian Education has cemented and to see it in practice is just a huge benefit,” says Rachael. "It is about who we are, what comes out, how we respond and relate to students to create those safe environments, how we support unique children or children with different gifting. Being able to solve problems integrating all of our biblical perspectives is awesome. Being able to pray for students when things are tough or going wrong is amazing. And I just can’t imagine even teaching without that. It’s such a holistic approach, being able to actually not just acknowledge but also actually enter into the fact that we are spiritual beings.”
At BTI, we are passionate about making a positive difference in the world. Our amazing lecturers, students and graduates live out of this commitment in many ways in their individual careers and personal lives - but from time to time, an opportunity comes along for BTI as a whole institute, to look beyond it’s own borders and make a difference on a bigger scale.
We were presented with such an opportunity in 2011, when Ian Atcherson from Effective Aid International approached BTI about providing a Teacher Education programme for the Karen teachers living in the Maylar Refugee Camp on the Thai-Burma border. These dedicated teachers are responsible for educating the children in the camp, but have not had the opportunity to receive any formal teacher education.
The leadership team at BTI felt positive about responding to this request. BTI Dean, Andrew Smith says, “Part of our vision here at BTI is to recognize how well-off we are here in New Zealand in so many ways, not just financially, but in terms of resources, in terms of experience, in terms of freedom. We want to find ways of taking that and offering what we can to people who are not as well-off as we are.”
In May, BTI sent recent graduate, Graham Cook to live and teach in the refugee camp, delivering a customised BTI Teacher Education programme and being BTI’s representative in the camp. Andrew Smith travelled to the refugee camp with Graham and spent a week learning more about the needs of the people and exploring how best to meet them. “We're really clear, we're not about colonizing,” explains Andrew. “We don't want to take New Zealand learning or experience and dump it on other places. That's not appropriate. So we work really hard at ensuring that whatever we do is related to the context that it's culturally appropriate. But it's a real privilege to be involved, sharing what we have been given with those in other contexts.”
While the existing teachers are welcoming the idea of professional development, it is quite a mindset change for them to be exposed to other ways of teaching. The way the project has unfolded, BTI is primarily working with a group of 20 young people who are not teachers at all, but who want to be. Andrew comments, “They're, for the most part, Christian and very keen to see how God might work through them and in them to enable them to help their people. They have an amazing vision that goes way beyond just working with individual children. Their vision is very much to see their nation changed and to look forward to hope for the possibility they might, at some point in the future, be able to go back into Burma and see the Burmese state which exists in theory become much more of reality.
Andrew has been in regular touch with Graham since returning to BTI. “He appears to be doing a fantastic job. I hear very good reports from the other staff in the school about what he's doing, really getting alongside the students, working with content that we're providing in terms of training, and facilitating their working through the material.”
Click on the image to hear more about BTI's Mission in Burma