Karen Berry knows every day she goes to work she’s doing a job she loves and making a difference in the lives of the children she works with.
As an education support worker for McKenzie Centre, Karen spends her days with children who have varying degrees of learning support needs.
Some children are autistic, some have Down’s Syndrome, others are nonverbal or in a wheelchair.
It varies, she says. “What you see from where they start from and when they leave at five or six years old is amazing.”
Karen has been an education support worker (ESW) for 10 years with McKenzie Centre. She had always been around children and was interested in the special needs’ area where she felt she had something to offer.
“I haven’t looked back since the time I applied,” she said. “From day one, the job was for me, and it still is.”
Building up children’s social skills, getting them to communicate and achieve their goals is so rewarding.
“It’s what you see from the children as you work with them. It’s so nice when you have that special bond with them.”
So, what makes a good ESW? “Patience, a lot of patience and passion. You’ve got to be passionate about what you do. If you don’t have that, to support our children, it would be a very hard job.”
Karen supports children at the early childhood centre their whānau choose, so on any day she could be going from a kohanga reo to a Montessori or a kindergarten.
She has learned to fit in wherever she goes because it is important the early childhood centre includes the child and helps them develop towards the next stage of their education journey.
McKenzie Centre provides ESW staff with collegial support, the opportunity to discuss the children they all engage with and professional development and learning.
“They’re like another family to me at McKenzie Centre,” says Karen.