Striving to do ordinary things extraordinarily well, a call first made by Sisters of Mercy founder Catherine McAuley, is
the inspiration that drove Carmel College old girl Paulene Walsh.
Mrs Walsh, currently the Learning Support Coordinator of John Paul II College in Rotorua, was the only teacher in a
Catholic school to receive one of the five National Excellence in Teaching Awards this year. She was recognised for her work in the school and community.
“It has always been a privilege and an honour to be a teacher,” she told NZ Catholic. “I am in a job I really love and I feel honoured to serve my community. I am very proud of John Paul College and our Rotorua community.”
Mrs Walsh said she had always wanted to make a difference in the lives of her students. At present, JPC has more than
200 students on its learning support register, with learning needs ranging from low to very high.
“I have always believed in the inherent goodness and potential of all students. Every student, irrespective of academic ability, is capable of learning and therefore, achieving. At its core, good teaching is about quality relationships. If students feel you know them, care about them, won’t give up on them and feel safe in your presence, then good teaching and learning flow from this,” she said.
Mrs Walsh’s passion for education soon overflowed from the school into the community. Last year, she spoke to the
Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust about breaking down barriers to learning for students and whanau.
“They listened and they asked me to look wider than just my school community, but for all in Rotorua,” she said.
Mrs Walsh said that, since last year, the trust had been sponsoring community education in Rotorua. The college helps her source high quality presenters and lets her make use of the school as a venue for community education. She noted that finances could be a barrier to learning.
Mrs Walsh said she moved to Rotorua with her family 15 years ago and started teaching part-time at JPC. She worked
in the Religious Education and English departments.
“I was then asked to support students in the Learning Support Centre. Marie Hepi, the learning support coordinator, asked me to apply for her role when she became the dean of year 7. She said my knowledge and my passion for education would benefit our students and their
whanau,” Mrs Walsh related.
“When she handed over the role to me, I always felt I had big shoes to fill. This role is one I have loved.”
Mrs Walsh said she works in a team, which creates wrap-around care for the students.
“Our senior managers, deans, careers counsellors, nurse, teachers, teacher aides, parents and outside agencies help
navigate a pathway for our students. We want to know the educational thumbprint of every child,” she said.
“At present, I am looking closely at dyslexia. How can we help support our dyslexic students? What makes a difference to their learning outcomes?”
Mrs Walsh said it was her former principal, Sr Monica Costello, RSM, who reminded her [Mrs Walsh] of Catherine
Sr Monica now lives in the convent at St Michael’s Catholic
primary school in Rotorua.
“On a daily basis, I try to live this out,” said Mrs Walsh.