“But what is new?” she quips. 

It is not an easy job, but Roberts is enjoying the break from teaching and being in the hot seat – representing the professional voice for secondary teachers. 

Roberts has been a PPTA member since attending teachers’ training college and sat on the executive for a while before she was first elected as president in 2012.

The entire PPTA membership of 17,500 votes for a president, who will best represent them at meetings with the Ministry of Education and the Government of the day on issues of national importance at the annual election held during Term 4.

Because the entire membership gets a say in who should be president, Roberts feels she is truly representing her profession. 

Roberts began teaching economics and drama in 1997, and her usual role is the head of arts at Stratford High School in Taranaki. 

“But for the meantime I am seconded here, full-time in Wellington as PPTA president,” she says.

“I will get back to the classroom eventually, I miss the kids and the staffroom – it won’t be difficult to return.

“Taking on the president’s role was an amazing opportunity to have some input into the public development and policies supporting education.” 

The more time Roberts spends in the role, it has become very clear the importance of having strong relationships between government and teacher unions, she says. 

There are times where Roberts is the only teacher voice present at discussions about various issues or policies, but she says she feels safe and comfortable interrupting the discourse to express her view – the view of the teachers about what works and does not work in the classroom.  

“I sit at the table as a proud teacher – a member of our profession who understands what we need to deliver what our kids need to learn at school,” she adds. 

As president of PPTA, Roberts also has to try and change assumptions people often make about the union – saying it is in place to protect “lazy” teachers, that do not take responsibility for what happens in the classroom and they are not up for change. 

Rather, the PPTA wants to uphold the high standards of the profession and to provide a strong advocate and voice for teachers and their rights, she says. 

The more members, the louder teacher’s voices will be when it comes to having a say on issues affecting the profession currently, such as bargaining for their new collective agreement this year; pay parity; the phasing out of the Teacher’s Council and its replacement, the Education Council of Aotearoa NZ (EDUCANZ); and the privatisation of schools which the PPTA feels does not benefit NZ children.

“Public education is important for a nation. We have a great system in New Zealand and these challenges come about so we can improve our great curriculum.

“Teachers should be nurtured and feel enabled – I spend a large part of my job trying to do that,” Roberts says.

 

Read Roberts’ views and opinions on the PPTA President Page here: ppta.org.nz/communities/president-page, and find more information about the PPTA.