Sarah Birch

Sarah Birch

Within School Leader, Hobsonville Point Primary School
Master of Education in Educational Leadership

She loves being in education, says Sarah Birch who came to AUT to study a Master of Education in Educational Leadership to build on the skills she had developed throughout her teaching career.

“I’ve been in teaching, teacher-leader and mentoring roles, working on special educational projects throughout the school, including developing a school-wide ako profile. I’m privileged to be growing the work and journey through a role as a within school leader. A former student, who I met recently in her role as a professional dancer and educator, reminded me that ‘No matter how tough things are, hang onto the bits you love’.

“I had been working alongside AUT Master of Teaching and Learning students as a mentor within my workplace over the last five-plus years, and was struck by the  AUT students’ open-mindedness, relational aptitudes, dispositional strengths and their development of critical thinking skills.”

Sarah says this experience inspired her to seek out AUT to further her own development and practice as a teacher-leader.

“I decided to study the Master of Education, and applied for and was awarded the TeachNZ Scholarship to complete my postgraduate study. I was studying part-time while working, and am grateful for the full support of our board of trustees and the senior leaders at my work, as well as my whānau at home. As the learning progressed, I was drawn to specialising in educational leadership and have subsequently completed this in 2023.”

Exploring future-based learning practices
The AUT education lecturers scaffolded a programme within a culture of support, patience and encouragement, Sarah says.

“The programme they created allowed for the personalisation of particular interests and needs that I had. Experiencing the influences of manaakitanga and whanaungatanga in the learning space as a strong part of the postgraduate learning was a highlight for me.”

Throughout her studies Sarah appreciated the freedom and autonomy the AUT lecturers afforded her.

“Having a strong interest in differentiated education and opportunities for all through the development of equity practices, I pursued this pedagogical ideology through research and constructing tools that could be adapted to better scaffold myself and others through a process of attuning to needs through various lenses. The journey involved deep inquiries into the worlds of mātauranga Māori with an educational lens. I enjoyed the university’s open-mindedness towards future-based learning ideas and practices.”

Advice for other students
Sarah, who completed her master’s degree with merit at the end of 2023, has some great advice for others who are considering returning to university study.

“My advice to anyone considering further study is to come to the table with an inquiry you’re passionate about and be open-minded about the learning journey ahead.

“Be ready to adapt your thinking, be affirmed, step outside your comfort zone and be open to metamorphosis.”