Starting Over


Training as a SPELD NZ Teacher overhauled Pip Coombes’ entire approach to literacy.  She reflects on how she grew her knowledge and the lessons learned through losing her ability to walk.

“I love being a teacher. It’s definitely my vocation. I’m currently the team leader of the Year 5-6 team, SENCO and Māori currculum lead. Over my many years of teaching, I’ve had the pleasure of working with so many young people with a wide range of learning needs. While I didn’t fully understand dyslexia and other SLD, I knew I wasn’t doing what they needed me to do to really get their learning moving. I didn’t know what I needed to be doing, either. One child always sticks in my head because they were absolutely a gifted writer – their vocabulary, ideas, style of storytelling, story development were all exceptional – but they couldn’t write on their own. While I’m so pleased that this child did really grow their writing capacity, I wasn’t well equipped with the skills to make a real difference to their learning. That began my journey of finding out more about what I could to support learners with SLD through SPELD NZ.

“I really liked that the training was online so I could fit my study in when it suited me. The workload is pretty heavy – jammed with learning, practical activities and assignments. Boy, have I learned! Two major highlights of the training were my amazing Kaiārahi (Learning Leader), Susan Michell, and my Associate Teacher, Isabelle Lefrancq. They’ve been incredible supports and fountains of knowledge. I really appreciated having an experienced teacher alongside me during the training. I came away from my practical lesson experiences alongside Isabelle feeling invigorated and excited. Isabelle gave me such useful feedback and ideas that helped to shape my approaches. She’s been a huge part of the development of my hands-on knowledge, explaining how I could improve or streamline what I was doing. I can honestly say that I feel well equipped with the skills to support learners with SLD, and am so thankful for the ongoing supports that SPELD NZ provides as I embark on my tutoring journey. I didn’t think I wanted to do one-to-one lessons on top of teaching full time, but now I can’t imagine not doing it!

Boy, have I learned!

“My whole approach to teaching literacy has had an overhaul and I can support my classroom learners with SLD so much better. That makes me so happy. I’m also able to support my colleagues with SLD learners with activities, accommodations and learning experiences that will make a difference for them, too.

“Just over a year ago I lost my ability to walk due to a spinal cord injury. It started with a minor back injury on a school camp as I was undoing tent pegs and developed into a rare condition that compressed my spinal cord. Thankfully, I had spinal surgery just in time to preserve my spinal cord and I have regained 90% of what I had before. I spent a very long time away from my family and job on the rehab ward, working intensively with physios, doctors, occupational therapists, pain teams and nurses. It has been a very humbling experience for me as I have seen the benefit of a positive attitude and a strong sense of self-efficacy. It has also taught me that with the right tools and the right people, anything is possible. I hope to share that attitude with my students as I embark on my journey as a newly qualified SPELD NZ Teacher!”