Donna is a highly experienced tutor in the School of Hairdressing and she has held a wide range of positions within the hairdressing industry. She was invited to give a keynote address at the National Tertiary Learning and Teaching Conference in Invercargill in 2014. Her presentation focused on her key teaching philosophy of ‘keeping it real’ for her students.
‘Everything I teach is directly relevant to what they need to know in the salon,’ Donna asserts. ‘This includes hairdressing skills but also life skills such as time management, team work and critical thinking. Even technical information such as ratios and other mathematical skills can be related to a student’s life outside the classroom.’ She advocates using a wide range of different teaching strategies to embed numeracy and literacy into the classroom so as to reach a diversity of students, and she recommends making numeracy and literacy exercises simple, quick and fun for learners. Donna also noted the importance of tutors modelling high standards of behaviour as a vital element in ‘keeping it real’ for students. As she explains: ‘we insist on students maintaining high standards of personal presentation and good time management, in line with employer expectations – but don’t expect all this to happen if you don’t model it yourself!’
As Donna revealed during her talk, a passion for her area of expertise has been an important factor in her success as a teacher. ‘Being able to pass on this passion and watching my students developing the skills and knowledge they need for the work place is magic to me!’ She insists that being a teacher is a privilege. ‘As tutors we hold our students’ futures in our hands,’ she says. ‘We have the power to build or destroy their dreams, and we need to treat every student as an individual and value what each one has to offer in our classrooms.’
The development of strong links with local industry and other stakeholders in the hairdressing sector has also been fundamental to Donna’s teaching career. She and her teaching team have built effective working relationships with local industry, hairdressing companies, HITO (Hairdressing Industry Training organisation) and other training professionals. ‘We support them and in turn they support us and our students with work experience opportunities and employment,’ she says. ‘We also regularly bring guest speakers into the classroom and they help our students to set employment goals and to “dream big” for their futures.’
Donna has been on the executive of the ITP Hairdressing and Beauty Therapy Association since its inception in the early 1990s and is also on the executive of the Southland Hairdressing Association. She has been involved in the government’s Targeted Reviews of Qualifications or TRoQ, and has helped organise a number of New Zealand Hairdressing and Beauty Therapy annual conferences. ‘These activities offer me opportunities to “give back” to the industry that has given me so much enjoyment over many years,’ says Donna.
In 2013 that industry recognised her contribution by awarding her the national Tutor of the Year Award for exceptional industry knowledge and training achievements. ‘Getting the award was an amazing experience and it gave me the time to reflect on my working life so far,’ she says. ‘I believe I am one of those very fortunate people who has loved my industry from the beginning of my career, and still do.’