Returning to his teaching roots.

Lyall Davies
  • Economics teacher at Paraparaumu College

After 15 years working as an accountant, Lyall Davies decided to change careers during the national lockdown and take up the Teacher Education Refresh (TER) programme with Open Polytechnic so he could regain his practising certificate and return to his teaching roots.

Now about to embark on a new job as an economics teacher at Paraparaumu College in Kapiti, Lyall says he is looking forward to making a difference in young people’s lives.

Journey back to the classroom

Lyall’s journey back to teaching began when he contacted the Teaching Council during the national lockdown in May 2020 to ask what he needed to do to become registered to teach in secondary schools.

“During the lockdown I was unfortunately made redundant from my job as an accountant. I had been working at the company for 15 years and didn’t really have a Plan B. So, I started to think about what I could do next and given I have a background in teaching it seemed a logical next step to investigate what was required to return.

Lyall had trained as a secondary school teacher before, however it was some years ago and his experience was in the tertiary sector.
“I had taught commerce before at a tertiary institution for about 15 years, before I moved into accountancy, but there were few opportunities in the tertiary sector at the time due to Covid-19 border closures to international students, so I started to think about teaching at secondary school – which is quite a different environment.”

After speaking with the Teaching Council, Lyall looked into the Open Polytechnic online TER programme. It is aimed at early childhood, primary and secondary teachers who have graduated from an Initial Teacher Education programme but have not achieved a full practicing certificate within a six-year period; are returning to the workforce after a lengthy period; or have trained overseas. Completing a TER enables graduates to be provisionally certified for an additional six years.

“I spoke to one of the Open Polytechnic tutors and he was absolutely marvellous and talked me through my options. I had plenty of time on my hands so started the course as soon as I could working pretty solidly through the modules– I was quite serious and focused!”

A people’s person

Teachers can complete the TER programme over a period of up to 12 months. Lyall completed his in six, including the final part of the course which involved a four-week practicum placement at Paraparaumu College.

Lyall says while he was initially nervous about going into a new area with secondary schools, he enjoyed the interaction with students after stepping back into the classroom.

“The key thing is I am a people’s person, I like interaction. In my previous role I estimate I spent about 80% of my time in front of a computer. I thought, I don’t want to spend all my time in front of a computer screen. That is why teaching is really great. You are interacting with people and making a real difference in young people’s lives.”

He was also pleasantly surprised by how much things had changed since he last taught.

“One thing that surprised me, and is really great to see, is how the use of technology has increased. At my previous teaching role, it was a ‘whiteboard, chalk and talk type’ of lecturing approach. Now the use of technology is right throughout the school in the use of laptops, iPads and Google classrooms. So, the delivery style has changed immensely. It is something I am embracing.”

Lyall, enjoyed his time so much at the end of the practicum he successfully applied for a full-time job at Paraparaumu College as an economics teacher.

“I happened to have the right set of skills at the right time as the schools’ economics teacher had recently retired. I really enjoy teaching economics to students. You can link it to real time events, such as the housing market, imports and exports, and how Covid-19 is affecting not only the New Zealand economy, but the world economy. It’s this that helps the subject come alive in the classroom.

“Paraparaumu College is a great school – really well resourced and has amazing support staff. I’m grateful for the opportunity and looking forward to contributing to the school and being a real asset to them.”

Experience with distance learning

Lyall said the TER programme set him up well to re-enter the teaching profession and he enjoyed the structured approach of online learning.

“There are quite a few differences between teaching at the tertiary and secondary level, so going through the TER programme set me up well for getting familiar with the curriculum and understanding things such as classroom management techniques.

“I also enjoyed the self-directed approach of online learning. It’s a very economical use of time and quite structured. Having experienced on-campus study before I know there is a lot of lost time for example when travelling to lectures and tutorials. With online study you can fit it in anytime. I’m an early riser so I got into the routine of studying in the morning and I quite enjoyed the routine.”

Lyall said he also appreciated the responsiveness of the Open Polytechnic tutors when he had queries or wanted to clarify anything.

“Sometimes, if I wanted to make sure I was heading down the right track with assessments I would send queries and I would get responses back quickly. Also, when I finished doing an assessment, the turn around with marking was really good and allowed me to progress through the course with confidence.

“At the end of the day having a contact like my tutor was awesome – he was helpful, he was friendly and he made things happen. It meant a lot.”

Retraining Advice

For others looking to return to teaching or retrain, Lyall says he is proof it’s never too late.

“I think retraining in general is really important, particularly with the way technology is moving so fast. People will be working longer and there will be many who perhaps won’t be able to retire when they want to.

“So, I believe in the idea of studying, being flexible, working in some form and having a longer-term view. Teaching opens up the opportunity of working later in life and also part-time. It’s also great time to consider returning to the sector.

“The teaching profession is a very full-on but rewarding profession. I’m looking forward to starting a new chapter and I’m grateful for the support I received from the Open Polytechnic to make it happen.”

The key thing is I am a people’s person, I like interaction. In my previous role I estimate I spent about 80% of my time in front of a computer. I thought, I don’t want to spend all my time in front of a computer screen. That is why teaching is really great. You are interacting with people and making a real difference in young people’s lives.

Career change