Champions for Children: Meet RCH Special Needs Teacher Andy

All children have the right to access education, even when they are unwell, and many people might not know about the incredible team of educators at the RCH who help to keep patients connected to their regular school or kindergarten while they are in hospital.

To mark World Teachers’ Day on Friday, October 30, 2020, we caught up with Special Needs Teacher, Andy, to find out about his typical day at the RCH and how the RCH Education Institute team has responded and adapted to the many challenges this year has presented.

What does a typical day at the RCH look like for you?

As with most teams here at the hospital, no two days are ever the same! Typically my day involves morning meetings to discuss current and new students, discussions with various treating teams, communication with schools and of course, education sessions with our wonderful students.

What motivated you to be a teacher in a paediatric hospital?

Prior to starting work at the RCH, I was fortunate to work at Glenroy Specialist School, an incredible school that has a close working relationship with the hospital. When the RCH Education Institute advertised a vacancy for their first Special Needs Teacher, I was really encouraged by the opportunity to support a similar cohort of students when they are most vulnerable.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

There’s many. One thing that I love is that I am always learning something new. Staff share their expertise and families share their stories. It’s a lovely balance.

Another is the comradery between teams, especially within our own team in the Education Institute. There isn’t a much better feeling than when teams pull together for a positive outcome for our students. This might be a successful return to school, beginning a school in a new setting, or completing their final year at school.

Finally, without sounding too cliché, it’s the kids themselves. Our primary role is to best support students to continue their curriculum while they are patients at the hospital. But really, it’s those moments where you can bring some happiness and normality to their day that makes the job so rewarding, especially over the previous few months.

How have the challenges of 2020 impacted you and your RCH teaching colleagues and the way you educate kids?

When the pandemic first really impacted our team in March, schools acted quickly to close down and holidays were moved forward. The RCH Education Institute provides service to students over the holiday period, so this meant responding to the sweeping changes and precautions on the move. The team quickly adapted to virtual learning platforms to facilitate sessions for the majority of our Kinder, Primary Years and Secondary Years students.

Reflecting on this period now, I really am proud of the work that our team has accomplished to support our students. Students have had access to 1:1 sessions, group learning (including music and art), excursions, guest speakers and more, all virtually! From the top down, it was a huge effort.

In some special cases, students who were unable to participate in the virtual platform were granted an exemption. This allowed teachers to provide face-to-face education for students who required additional support.

Organisationally, the opportunity this provided staff, was a source of professional pride, enabling students to continue to access their education.

Working behind the scenes we also have an awesome team of Education Consultants who have worked closely with families throughout this challenging period, as well as our Learning Support Officers who have supported our team with resource development and distribution.

Can you tell us an interesting fact about yourself or something your team may not know about you?

I worked at McDonalds for 48 hours and quit when I couldn’t make 4 x McChickens quick enough. I was 17 years old, and 40 seconds was an unrealistic time limit, in my opinion. Amazing effort by those who can though!

What three things would you take to a desert island?

The essentials of course: My dog Maggie, her bed and the framed picture of her as a puppy. She’s an Airedale and she wouldn’t accept anything less!

3 comments for “Champions for Children: Meet RCH Special Needs Teacher Andy”

  1. Traci

    Andy would have to be one of the most amazing educators that we have had the pleasure of meeting. His dedication to every child and their family he meets is second to none. Our daughters themed birthday party at RCH in June was a prime example of the lengths he goes to to make a difference in a child’s life. He also tailors lesson to the individual; and when your talking about a hospital with over 300 children as inpatients, that’s a huge workload. But it has never stopped Andy from making our daughter feel incredible special when it came to educational sessions. What an incredible asset Andy is to the RCH, and every person lucky enough to meet him is definitely better off for it.

  2. Sally Baker

    Andy you are a star! Your ability to come up with ways to engage our stubborn girl were incredible. Lily says hi and while we are glad we don’t have to come in so much we do miss you all

  3. Lisa Farnsworth

    Andy, one amazing, heartfelt, patient teacher. He made my son Sam laugh every time he walked in the room, his skill and patience to learn to be able to communicate with him as he had lost his speech was beyond awesome. He always started with Sam and slowly managed to implement the work, Sam did the most amazing power point with Andy’s guidance for a grade 6 project, Andy was so proud of Sam, and Sam loved that he impressed Andy.
    This bloke is a huge asset to the RCH team. I couldn’t praise him enough xxx

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