Meet Semurana Bradbrook, a Special Education Advisor

Semurana Bradbrook is based in Christchurch and has worked for the Ministry of Education since 2006.

Semurana’s story

As a trained primary school teacher, Semurana joined the Ministry in 2006 by becoming a Behaviour Support Teacher.  This specific role was for the Canterbury District’s Youth Education Services Programme.  In 2008 his role evolved to become a Special Education Advisor now often referred to as a Learning Support Advisor.   

Semurana’s day-to-day

Semurana’s core role in Learning Support is to support ākonga in years 0 – 10 who require extra support for their learning.  He works in teams alongside ākonga, their parents/caregivers and whānau, school and other agencies to understand their diverse strengths and needs within the settings in which they live and learn. Together they create collaborative learning and wellbeing plans that help to create environments where ākonga achieve social and academic success.  

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Meet Helen Smith, an Early Intervention Teacher

Helen Smith has worked as an Early Intervention Teacher in Christchurch for the Ministry of Education since 2016.

Helen’s story

Helen started working in a kindergarten following graduation. She then progressed to a kindergarten head teacher position. Over the years she has also been a coordinator for a home-based service, a centre manager of a community-based preschool, and an Early Intervention Teacher at CCSDA.  

Helen’s day-to-day

Helen often works with the wider teaching team on their overall social curriculum, routines and environment as well teaching strategies so that collaboratively they can identify where changes can happen which will meet all children’s needs. The intensity of intervention is deliberately varied and flexible in order to match intervention to the need. Helen’s measure of change is when adults feel confident and capable of supporting their learners and know where to get further support if needed.

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Psycholgist - Learning Support Staff

Meet Sonia Pope, an Educational Psychologist

Sonia Pope has worked as a registered Educational Psychologist in Auckland for the Ministry of Education since 2020.

Sonia’s story

Sonia became interested in the Educational Psychologist role because of her own early educational experience. She wanted to give back to the community and work with minorities and disadvantaged children, recognising the current inequities in the educational system. Through her own experience Sonia saw the importance of a holistic approach where schools collaborate alongside the student, the family and even the community.

Sonia’s day-to-day

Sonia supports schools and families to solve complex persistent problems that interfere with a young person’s learning. She uses her psychological lens to help people look at the situation differently, so that they understand the root causes of the problem and feel confident to problem solve. Sonia uses a collaborative approach to build the capacity of the child to reach their true learning potential. It is a busy role that requires someone who is both calm, resilient, and passionate about the area.

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Learning Support Staff and student

Meet Tina Pilapil, an Occupational Therapist

Meet Tina Pilapil, an Occupational Therapist in Auckland.

Tina Pilapil has worked as an Occupational Therapist in Auckland for 9 years and has worked at the Ministry of Education as an OT for over 3 years.

Tina’s story

Tina found out about this occupation as a teenager as she was exploring professions that worked with children with learning support needs. She used to work at a private specialist clinic back in the Philippines where she was the Senior Occupational Therapist. Currently, she is enjoying her work in the Ministry of Education collaborating with a broader range of specialists.

Tina’s day-to-day

A typical day for Tina involves supporting children and young adults (5 to 21 years old) who have additional support through the Ongoing Resource Scheme (ORS). She collaborates with schools, whānau and other specialists to support children’s development, especially on school activities and routines impacted by gross and fine motor difficulties and sensory needs. Her work in the Ministry is collaborative. Aside from working with the child or the young person, she also works with other people who make up their team. This may include learning assistants, teachers, Learning Support Coordinators, Special Education Needs Coordinators (SENCo), Outreach Teachers, Speech and Language Therapists, Physiotherapists, Psychologists and parents. 

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Learning Support Staff and Parent

Meet Raumati Paraha, a Kaitakawaenga

Iwi/Hapu – Dads side, Ngāti Hine, Te Rarawa – Mums side – Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Manuhiri, Ngāti Wai, Tuwharetoa, Ngāti Tahu, Ngāti Whaea, Raukawa.

Raumati Paraha, is a raukura from Kōhanga Reo, Kura Kaupapa and Hato Petera College. She was immersed in te Āo Māori growing up. Based in Auckland, Raumati has worked as a Kaitakawaenga for the Ministry of Education since 2021. 

Raumati’s story

Raumati’s career journey and approach to work is shaped by the values that her whanau holds; from her grandparents, tupuna, and families on both her mum and dad’s sides. She uses and shares the whakatauki “Mā te ahurei o te tamaiti e arahia to tātou nei mahi.” as a guide for her work and the work of her teams. Raumati was diagnosed with optic atrophy at the age of 8, which is a hereditary vision impairment where the optic nerve does not grow. Her dad and older sister both have the same vision impairment, and her son has recently been diagnosed as well. Raumati’s whānau supported her to access learning support, and provided foundations for her to have the opportunities of both te āo Māori and Pākehā. For Raumati, being a kaitakawaenga is a journey of ako and aroha, and a role which adds value to the lives of the whanau she works with and her community.

Raumati’s day-to-day

Raumati works to empower Māori and Pasifika children with learning support needs. Most of the cases that Raumati works on come through a request for support. Collaborating with whānau is a big part of the solution and plan, and she supports children and whānau to access and connect with the specialist services and supports they are surrounded by. 

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Meet Lucy Brookes, a Speech Language Therapist

Lucy Brookes is based in Christchurch and has worked as a Speech Language Therapist (SLT) at the Ministry of Education since 2004.

Lucy’s story

Lucy came to NZ from the UK to take up a role with Child Development Services (CDS) in Auckland working predominantly with 0–2-year-old children with eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties. At that time there was only one SLT training course running in NZ so there was a nationwide shortage of SLTs.

“After being a generalist SLT in the UK and gaining experience with adults and children with acquired and developmental communication difficulties I recognised that my passion was with children who require supports across a number of different areas”.

Lucy began working for the Ministry of Education in 2004, first in Palmerston North, then after having her own children she began working in Christchurch.

Lucy’s day-to-day

“The beauty of working for the Ministry is that we support a huge variety of children. We see children with straight forward speech, language, or fluency difficulties but then we also see children whose needs are more complex and require the collaboration of a number of different professionals to support the child and the adults in the child’s life.”

As well as her day-to-day work with mokopuna and their whānau and teachers, Lucy is involved with supporting other children and families. She co-hosts workshops such as Hanen’s More Than Words® for families of autistic children. She is accredited to be able to issue equipment for children who need access to Augmentative and Alterative Communication (AAC) devices. Lucy also has the role of working alongside other SLTs in her region when children with communication difficulties also need help with eating, drinking and swallowing. 

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Learning support staff and student

Meet Robyn Black, a Resource Teacher Vision

Robyn Black is based in Auckland and has worked as a Resource Teacher Vision (RTV) since 2011.

Robyn’s story

Robyn is a trained primary teacher. She has worked in both the primary and secondary sectors.

Robyn’s day-to-day

Robyn works with a range of students with a vision impairment. One day Robyn might be supporting a student in a P.E. lesson, modelling ideas on how to include a student with low vision, the next working on transition to university for a year 13 student and the following day working with a five-year-old learning to access literacy through braille. Accessing the school curriculum can be challenging and Robyn ensures that learning materials are accessible.  This can range from large print, to e-texts, or to braille.

Communication and working collaboratively are central to the role. Robyn promotes a team approach with whānau at the centre of her practice.  “Collaborating with the education team and whānau is essential; listening, planning, and adapting learning to enable students to successfully access the NZ Curriculum is core.” She often works alongside a variety of specialists to provide services to children with low vision, who access learning through braille or with complex needs. She enjoys supporting teachers and teacher aides both “on the spot”, and through scheduled PLD sessions.

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Learning Support Staff

Meet Sanjeeta Prasad, an Early Intervention Teacher

Sanjeeta Prasad is based in Auckland and has worked for the Ministry of Education as an Early Intervention teacher (EIT).

Sanjeeta’s story

Sanjeeta has worked at the Ministry of Education for 4 years, and as an EIT for 8 years. She used to work as a primary school teacher in Fiji, before moving to Aotearoa to work in early childhood education. She became interested in early intervention after caring for many children with learning support and social/emotional needs in her early education centre.

Sanjeeta’s day-to-day

As an Early Intervention Teacher, Sanjeeta works with young tamariki and their whānau who have learning needs, communication, social/emotional and well-being, self-regulation issues, physical needs, and cognitive or behavioural issues. She collaborates with others including speech language therapists (SLTs) or psychologists, as well as the child’s whanau and kaiako to create a plan to support the child’s transition into school.

Working as an EIT, Sanjeeta has recognised the importance of interpersonal skills such as patience and being a good listener. Being able to take feedback and having good time management skills have also been critical.

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Learning Support Staff and student

Meet Justine Gibson, a Resource Teacher of the Deaf

Justine is based in Auckland and has been a Resource Teacher of the Deaf (RTD) since 2020, and has been teaching since 1994.

Justine’s story

Before working as an RTD, Justine had teaching experience in Primary School/Secondary and Special Schools. She also held several Management positions in those schools. Justine became interested in the RTD role when as a teenager, she became fascinated by sign language after watching a play about a teacher and Deaf student. This led her to a career in Deaf education, in a variety of settings.

Justine’s day-to-day

Referrals are made to RTD services by Audiologists, AoDC, and SENCo/LSCs. Regional coordinators receive the requests, and they are distributed to RTD based on the geographical area.

Justine works across Primary, Intermediate, and Secondary schools. She visits students face-to-face each week and works in their classrooms. She often uses games for Auditory Skills Training. All children are supported by an Individualised Education Plan (IEP) developed collaboratively with whanau, teachers, support staff, SENCo/LSC and the Specialist Teacher (RTD). 

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