For Courtenay Blair, Eastern Institute of Technology (EIT) Chef Tutor and recent graduate of the New Zealand Certificate in Adult and Tertiary Teaching, education is about igniting a passion for learning and guiding students towards that “lightbulb moment”.
It’s clear from our conversation that Courtenay loves what she does and cares deeply about her students’ success.
“Cooking has been a huge passion of mine. It’s a recipe of dedication, care, mistakes and satisfaction. To be able to teach what I enjoy is huge. A lot of satisfaction comes from the ‘job’, as well such as watching a motivated, positive and eager learner grow,” says Courtenay.
“My challenge is to fill my students’ kete with enough skills for them to embark on their next step. If they take away as many skills as they can, I feel like I’ve done my job properly,” she continues.
Courtenay’s drive to deliver the best possible outcomes for her learners led her to enrol in eCampus NZs’ New Zealand Certificate in Adult and Tertiary Teaching (Level 5) in 2019.
A colleague at EIT recommended the course, assuring Courtenay that it would help her support her students with their mahi. Courtenay hasn’t looked back. “I’m so glad I did it and I recommend it to anyone else who is starting out because it was such a huge support. It has been amazing,” she says.
Courtenay found completing the certificate led to her own ‘lightbulb moment’. Throughout the course, Courtenay was able to refine her teaching philosophy, which she’ll use to guide her thinking and practice going forward.
“It helped me shape my teaching philosophy and mission,” she says.
Courtenay is particularly passionate about seeing each learner as an individual and creating an inclusive learning environment for her students. “Every learner is so different, so each learner has their own challenges, goals and determination.”
“You can’t have the same approach with all students. eCampus NZ really helped me develop the skills to help every individual learn.”
Courtenay found that learning online with eCampus NZ courses worked for her. With two kids in primary school and a fulfilling career, she needed a flexible learning option.
“I found learning online worked because I was able to do it when I had a spare opportunity. I just went for it. I put a lot of time aside in the weekends and at night to get through everything that was required.”
Throughout the course, Courtenay enjoyed being able to use what she was learning in her lessons, incorporating new strategies into lesson plans as she worked towards her assessments.
However, dedicating herself to upskilling alongside work and family commitments did involve making some sacrifices.
“I had to put other commitments on hold. I really made learning my main focus at night when the kids had gone to bed, and I really gave it my all.”
Asked what advice she’d give to current learners who may be struggling to manage work, study and family, Courtenay says it’s about communication and perseverance.
“Keep going. Talk with your peers within the paper. Talk to the facilitator – that’s why they’re there, and they’re so understanding and helpful.”
“It’s so rewarding to get it done. It’s a huge support mechanism, and it’s really going to support you in your role with students.”
Courtenay managed to complete the full programme in just over a year, with her final course ending last July. She avoided taking long breaks between courses, preferring to keep up her momentum. “If you can put things aside and really go for it, it’s worthwhile.”
Since graduating, Courtenay has loved putting what she learned into practice. “I’m so glad I did it and I recommend it to anyone else who is starting out because it was such a huge support. It has been amazing.”
So what’s next for Courtenay? Truly a lifelong learner, she’s currently studying te reo Māori, and she’s already considering options for the next step in her learning journey. Ka pai hoki koe! Good on you, Courtenay!