Education support lays the foundations of success
Student profile: Miyuki Sasaki, Certificate III Education Support
“I feel honoured to be a part of their lives.”
Having worked previously as a therapist and counsellor, and volunteering on Japanese school exchanges, Miyuki Sasaki took a break from employment to raise a family. When she was ready to return to the workforce, she looked for a career choice that would allow her to work during school hours as well as using her expertise.
“I chose the Education Support course as a way to build on the experiences I already had: interpersonal skills and emotional understanding,” Miyuki says. “Now I am working as an Education Support officer at Ellinbank Primary School and I have been able to put both my previous work experience and my new learning to good use in the classroom.”
Miyuki completed her Certificate III in Education Support with Community College Gippsland in 2021, originally attending in-person classes until pandemic restrictions forced learning online. Miyuki found the small group setting of the face-to-face classes boosted her confidence, laying the foundations for success in her own learning; a confidence that she would take into the classroom to assist the students.
“I had been away from study for many years so it was a daunting prospect to go back. But starting in the classroom really helped me. The smaller class size meant we had more time with the trainer. As a Japanese native, I was worried about the English literacy aspect but the trainer reassured me, and with her support I knew I could achieve my goals.
“When we moved to the online learning model, we found different ways to remain engaged. I completed the assignments and by the fourth term, I was ready for work placement.
“When I did the 110 hours of placement, I was able to use the information I had learned around policy and legislation in a practical setting. But actually being with the students was where the confidence I had gained came into play. Being able to connect with them socially and emotionally, developing relationships, was a key part of the placement,” Miyuki says.
After graduating, Miyuki found work in the job that she loves. As an industry where skilled graduates are in high demand, Miyuki was able to find a role that was just the right fit for her.
“I have been fortunate to find a position in a school where class sizes are small, so I can work directly with the classroom teacher to assist the children that need additional support,” Miyuki says. “I have developed emotional connections with the students in my care and it is very rewarding. I see it as a privilege to know these kids and understand their needs. Just the other day, one of my students told me: ‘you’re the best helper and I feel honoured to be a part of their lives.”
Employer’s perspective: Ellinbank Primary School
“Understanding emotional regulation would really give them the edge when applying for positions.”
Once studies have been completed and a student puts into practice what they’ve learned, what does an employer look for in an Education Support Officer? Catherine Clerks, Principal of Ellinbank Primary School where Miyuki works, explains.
“Education Support Officers must show initiative and be willing to learn from the teacher they are working with. They need to be responsive to the needs of the students and always put those needs first. We find many people go into the job thinking it is an easy way to earn a living and do not realise they have to fully engage with the students. Too many applicants are not literate enough to work in a classroom. The role is not about sitting around sharpening pencils and laminating.
“A good Education Support Officer will learn about understanding students who find school challenging, how to re-engage, how to speak quietly, how to distract, use supportive vocabulary and make accommodations to tasks when a student struggles,” Catherine says.
A key element is working with students on emotional regulation – the ability to influence the emotions they have in certain situations.
“Having had Education Support students on placement, and seen the tasks they are required to complete, I find they often lack the personal skills required to be an effective officer. Understanding emotional regulation would really give them the edge when applying for positions.
Catherine says that she knew Miyuki would be a good fit because she has a gentle soul, a good sense of humour and a desire to learn.
“We could see in her that her studies and life experience had shaped her as a person who will give anything a go and has the confidence to ask questions and engage with the students. In a short period of time, she has become a valued staff member who really cares for the students, demonstrating the attributes of a well-rounded Education Support Officer in her adaptability and her capacity to engage with the teacher and the students,” Catherine explains.