Source: Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA)
Meet Louise Ryan, who represents PPTA Te Wehengarua members in various national educational and union-based advisory groups
In her first year as a secondary teacher, Louise Ryan was shoulder tapped and encouraged to get actively involved in PPTA Te Wehengarua – and she hasn’t stopped.
Louise is Head of Media Studies at Western Springs College Ngā Puna o Waiōrea. “I’m incredibly lucky to currently work at a school where the support of the union is so strong. And I love how passionate people are about fighting to make our education system the best it can be for not only students but teachers as well. And there’s always lots of singing at meetings which I love.”
However, there is not so much singing at some of the Wellington forums Louise represents PPTA Te Wehengarua in. “I’m one of two executive members on the Curriculum Voices Group, where we provide feedback on the various aspects of the national curriculum refresh. We have been vocal in our advocacy in this group, particularly about workload, and the need to ensure that the curriculum refresh and the NCEA change package work together and are coherent.”
Louise is also a member of the Secondary Qualifications Advisory Group, comprising NZ Qualifications Authority, Ministry of Education and other education sector representatives who meet to discuss issues around senior secondary qualifications.
Diversity of viewpoints
She is a member of Kaimahi Whakikaha, a group within the Council of Trade Unions that advocates for workers with disabilities. “I was born with cerebral palsy and I’m really keen to look at how PPTA can support members who live with disabilities, and long term health or chronic conditions.
I really enjoy being able to contribute to work in these areas to improve the conditions for teachers. It is wonderful being able to meet such different groups of people, be part of a diversity of viewpoints, and to feel that I’m able to help represent the members in this space. I like being challenged and this work is really full on but interesting.”
Inspiration for the classroom
She admits to ‘suffering a bit of imposter syndrome’. “But I have to remind myself how my experience in the education sector gives me the authority to contribute to these groups. Similarly, being in these groups inspires me for when I go back to the classroom.
“You get to meet so many amazing people who love what they do and are so good at what they do. I’ve learned so much from being an executive member and being able to meet a range of different teachers and education professionals.”
Louise says a challenging aspect of representing teachers in these forums is facing the reality that often the power to make decisions is beyond your control. “Instead, you have to try to focus on what you can influence and how you can best offer feedback or contribute in a meaningful way.
Teachers need to be heard
“Sometimes it can feel like the challenges facing us are huge but then I look at how important lived experience is – as teachers we are the experts and need to be heard when decisions are being made in the education sector. PPTA Te Wehengarua has been hugely influential in these spaces and it is inspiring to be a part of this.”
Louise says teaching was always something she was interested in doing. “I completed a BA in English and Politics at Auckland University but was reluctant to move into teaching straight away. I ended up completing a journalism diploma before moving into teaching.
Making a difference
“I really wanted to do something that I felt passionate about, that gave back to the community and made a difference in some way. Teaching seemed a natural fit and gave me a chance to use what I had studied at uni.”
She describes her current role is a privilege. “It’s a fantastic school with amazing staff and cool students so I feel pretty lucky.” Louise is also the Assistant Academic Director for Year 13 which includes helping students with scholarship and university entrance. And she is treasurer on her PPTA branch committee.
Outside of school and PPTA, Louise loves to read. “As a Media and English teacher I am somewhat predictably into books and television and film. I’m always reading. I really love writing and I’m dabbling in a bit of art as well. I also love food – reading about food, eating food, drawing food, baking. I’m also in danger of becoming a cat lady.”