Flexible learning helps Hawke’s Bay teacher graduate

Skye Stanley
  • Ngāti Kahungunu ki Heretaunga; Ngāti Rongomaiwahine

The ability to complete her studies while based in provincial New Zealand, has helped Skye Stanley (Ngāti Kahungunu ki Heretaunga; Ngāti Rongomaiwahine) achieve her Graduate Diploma in Teaching (Secondary Education) from Open Polytechnic | Te Pūkenga.  

Flexible learning helps Hawke’s Bay teacher graduate 

The flexibility of being able to study online from Hawke’s Bay, where Skye lives, made distance learning with Open Polytechnic preferable to other study options.  

“I couldn't see how I could do my teaching qualification without traveling to Auckland or Palmerston North every few weeks for tutorials and practicums, until I found Open Polytechnic’s programme,” Skye says. 

 “The staff helped me by discussing my options and getting placements in Hawke’s Bay, where I live.” 

It also meant it was easier for Skye to organise childcare for her young family and she didn’t have to worry about accommodation during placements, since she could stay at home throughout her studies.  

Skye says her favourite whakataukī (proverb) is “Kia uru kahikatea ki tū” which means “Success through the unity of purpose”, which inspired her throughout her studies. 

Finding employment after study 

Skye’s Open Polytechnic qualification has helped her to get a job as a Kaiako Putaiao (Science Teacher) at William Colenso College in Napier since graduating.  

She found the Graduate Diploma in Teaching (Secondary Education) programme, through Open Polytechnic, very practical and the eight-week practicum at William Colenso College, where she now works, helped her to find employment there. 

“The practicums were helpful in helping me to choose where I wanted to work when I finished.” Skye says.  

“Having a great partner school made a difference in finding a job afterwards, because I wouldn't have applied if I didn't have my practicum there.” 

According to Skye, the learning done on the programme was tough, but prepared her for the reality of provisional teaching requirements.  

“The lesson planning and unit planning during my placement helped me set up habits that have made my planning so much easier this year, to ensure I'm meeting the requirements for registration.” 

Skye teaches junior science and senior chemistry. She originally trained to teach biology as her senior subject, but the Graduate Diploma in Teaching (Secondary Education) taught her skills to feel confident enough in curriculum linking (linking everything back to teaching standards and the curriculum), as well as planning, to be able to effectively plan lessons that meet the requirements of other subjects.  

“The curriculum assessments were so helpful for real-life teaching because I really had to familiarise myself with the teaching standards, subject requirements and objectives to be able to meet my obligations now as a provisional teacher,” Skye says. 

“To be able to gain a full registration I just need to carry on these same skills and habits that I picked up during the programme.” 

How Skye became interested in teaching 

Skye originally started studying to become a nurse in Auckland, but when she had her first child, she realised that the demands and working hours weren’t very family friendly. 

“In my last year of my nursing qualification I did a health promotion paper and health coaching which I loved and saw for the first time a potential pathway into teaching,” Skye says. 

When Skye finished her nursing studies and moved to Hawke’s Bay she enrolled in the Graduate Diploma in Teaching (Secondary Education) through Open Polytechnic, with the flexibility enabling her to learn from home, rather than travelling to the main centres. 

What the Graduate Diploma in Teaching (Secondary Education) programme involves 

Ākonga (learners) in the Graduate Diploma in Teaching (Secondary Education) programme access courses online with academic support from academic staff members.  

Contact with academic staff and other ākonga occurs through the learning platform’s talk channels, at noho marae (overnight stay a marae) and during practicums at schools.   

Ākonga also engage in separate online tutorials delivered by educators who are experienced secondary subject specialists.  

The programme, which started in 2023, has been created with the purpose of opening accessibility to teacher training for ākonga (learners) in the community where they are based; enabling ākonga to enrol and study by open distance and flexible learning from anywhere in New Zealand.   

Initially, Skye was unsure what to expect with the Graduate Diploma in Teaching programme, because she wasn’t keen to teach in the same way she was taught while at high school.  

"The past year was so helpful in helping me uncover what type of teacher I was and wanted to be; my teaching philosophy,” Skye says. 

Gaining practical hands-on-skills 

Being a first-year teacher has been full on for Skye, but very manageable thanks to her studies and experience gained through the 8-week practicum at William Colenso College, as part of the Graduate Diploma in Teaching (Secondary Education) programme.  

“I thought eight weeks were really long, but it was enough time to build good enough relationships with the students, to more effectively test the pedagogies that we learned and practice putting lesson plans together at a pace that was manageable for trainee teachers,” Skye says. 

Weeks 1 and 2 were for setting up routines and getting comfortable, before adding more and more of a class load each week.  

“This definitely made the transition to real life teaching more comfortable,” Skye says. 

The Graduate Diploma in Teaching (Secondary Education) taught Skye how to put a Unit Plan together, which has been handy with the refreshed curriculum.  

“Having unit planning knowledge means I have been able to contribute and adjust units to meet the new requirements and develop my own teaching style,” Skye says. 

Open Polytechnic’s helpful staff  

Sadly, a close family member of Skye’s passed away a week before she was supposed to start her Open Polytechnic studies.  

“Of course, my mind was all over the place, but the Open Polytechnic student mentors team was so helpful and considerate, and made things as flexible as they could to help me on my way,” Skye says. 

“The academic staff were all amazing and easy to get along with, it was as if I knew them in real life.” 

The Open Polytechnic academic staff helped Skye to be proud of her own identity which has essentially helped her to build some good connections with her students now.  

“I have also seen how important differentiating lessons is and even have a few tricks up my sleeve thanks to awesome visiting academics, the lecturers who came to do my observations,” Skye says. 

“I got to know some pretty cool lecturers who really cared about rangatahi (young people) education, which definitely kept me inspired along the way.” 

Skye enjoyed the experience of studying with Open Polytechnic and encourages others to consider doing the same, when looking at their options. 

“I would 100% recommend to anyone looking into studying teaching to see what Open Polytechnic has to offer, because it really felt like they wanted me to succeed,” Skye says. 

I would 100% recommend to anyone looking into studying teaching to see what Open Polytechnic has to offer, because it really felt like they wanted me to succeed.