A Hunter Valley woman who dreamt of being a teacher while she spent years working at a power station and in a mine has been recognised as one of Australia’s finest teacher aides.

Michelle Whiting, a learning support officer at OneSchool Global East Maitland for the past 15 years, has been Highly Commended in the Australian Teacher Aide of the Year Awards.

Michelle was nominated for being “a vital part of students’ learning journey and contributing greatly to their growth and wellbeing both academically and socially”.

The Aberglasslyn resident says she thought her dream of being a teacher had passed her by when she worked in accounts and payroll at a power station and in a mine.

But after taking a few years off to have a family, she started helping out at her children’s school – which became her entrée into the world of education.

“All I ever wanted to be when I was growing up was a teacher, so to win an award like this on my 60th birthday was amazing. And I’ve got some good years left in me yet!” Michelle said.

As her teacher aide skills grew, she heard about a job vacancy in 2008 at a new school in East Maitland and threw her hat into the ring on the day the applications closed.

Michelle says she is eternally grateful that she did, saying that becoming part of the OneSchool Global teaching environment has been “one of the most rewarding chapters of my life”.

“That was the first year of the primary school back then in 2008 and we had three demountables and an old building that we used sometimes. So much has changed, it is such a beautiful school now.

“This school is a beautiful community, and the kids are gorgeous. I support every student in the school, and it is extremely rewarding work.”

Day to day, Michelle helps to improve the literacy of specific students through specific, tailored programs.

She delivers the Macqlit program for groups of students in the primary school, and individual students identified for targeted intervention in the secondary school.

Michelle was nominated by teacher Timothy Brennan, who praised her dedication to the students’ wellbeing.

“Michelle’s dedication to professional growth to better support students is evident in her practice, and records of student achievement demonstrate a clear pattern of improvement at a rate which is well above what they would be able to achieve through their regular classes alone,” Mr Brennan said.

OneSchool Global has 31 campuses across Australia in Queensland, NSW, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, and Western Australia.

OneSchool Global Australia provides innovative learning and teaching to more than 2,250 students with more than 450 staff.  Teachers have access to a network of professionals around the world.