A day in the life of Nidia Danza
A day in the life of Nidia Danza
12 August 2022
Others Magazine speaks with Nidia Danza, a secondary school teacher and Vocational Education and Training (VET) coordinator with The Salvation Army Oasis Youth Network in Surry Hills, Sydney. Oasis College is an independent secondary school for Years 11 and 12 in inner-city Sydney. The college delivers a NESA-accredited Higher School Certificate (HSC) program in a safe and supportive environment designed to support young people in overcoming adversity. Oasis services also support young people in the Central Coast, Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and Hunter regions of NSW.
Can you give us an overview of your job?
I teach Year 11 and Year 12 students in the HSC subjects of Community and Family Studies and English Studies, and Vocational Educational and Training (VET) Certificate II in Hospitality (Food and Beverage) and Certificate II in Skills for Work and Vocational Pathways. I’m also VET coordinator, responsible for the entry of VET student data into the NESA (NSW Education Standards Authority) website and The Association of Independent Schools (AIS) AXcelerate platform. I provide training, resource information, and support to VET teachers who deliver these courses. And last but not least, I’m Google Classroom Administrator for Oasis College, teachers, staff and students.
What’s the first thing you do when you arrive at work?
Coffee! Once I’ve had a sip of that golden amber ... I’m good to go! At Oasis College, we are a close-knit team of four. Each morning we check in and connect as individuals. I cherish those moments. It is important we safeguard our own wellbeing to ensure we are able to support the wellbeing of our students.
What can a typical day involve for you?
At Oasis, we have a five-period day of formal one-hour lessons. On average, I deliver three-to-four out of five periods of face-to-face learning each day. First, I make a list of important tasks to be actioned that day. I respond to emails that have come through the night and speak to teachers and staff about our students and their needs and appointments for the day. At 9 am, we have the school circle. We all (students, teachers and staff) check-in and give a rating out of five of how we are feeling that morning. If a rating is low, the hope is that by the end of the day we have lifted the spirits of the individual to a four or five rating. The days are a whirlwind of planning and delivering theory lessons and setting up and delivering two-hour practical hospitality lessons. Lunch break is either spent cleaning and putting away the last items from the hospitality practical, lunch duty or time with a student who needs help. At 3 pm, we hold a school circle and farewell our students for the day. When quiet, I have the opportunity to check my emails, and mark student work and assessments. Where necessary, I complete any NESA, AIS or TSA administration and professional development requirements. Lastly, I complete lesson plans for the following day and list items to be actioned that evening.
What’s the most challenging part of your work?
Unpacking trauma. Every young person is different. Students come to us with symptoms and experiences that influence behaviour. We strive to understand, support and ultimately not to re-traumatise. Making time! The expectation of compliance for NESA, AIS and TSA can at times feel overwhelming. In an ideal world, we as teachers would not have to do the admin. We could simply teach, which is where our passion lies.
What’s the most rewarding?
I love what I do, or I would not do it. Teaching can be frustrating, hectic and tough sometimes. For the most part, though, it is fun, meaningful and an honour. Knowing we helped to give our students the skills they need is fulfilling as they enter the world of work. For example, we had five students successfully achieve their HSC in 2021. Despite COVID lockdowns and disruptions, they did it! Full credit to them. Three went on to further study and two into the hospitality industry. The greatest reward for a teacher is seeing their students happy, motivated and living their best life.
How has COVID-19 affected how you work?
To be honest, I comfortably yielded to COVID lockdown. Absolutely, I missed face-to-face with colleagues and students. That was never in question. COVID gave me an opportunity to reset. To find a work-life balance. I could be all I needed to be for my colleagues and students online and in phone calls (facilitated by strong relationships and connections fostered before the pandemic) while being available in all aspects for my family. Not to mention that lockdown afforded me more time to self-care with walks and exercise of a morning instead of being stuck in Sydney rush-hour traffic every day.
What drives/motivates you to get up each day and go to work?
Every day there is something new and different. Like the students I teach, I am always learning. Learning from their experiences. Learning new ways to engage and inspire my students. Learning enhances one’s self-confidence and feelings of trust, so that we can tackle anything that may come our way.
How do you see your work achieving the mission of TSA to transform lives?
At Oasis College, our mission is to support and facilitate opportunities for our students. We provide experiences that are relevant and interesting that develop their strengths, foster resilience and encourage learning. With our support, we safely encourage them to step outside their comfort zones and trust in self. We carry the faith in them until they are ready to carry it for themselves.
Today is International Youth Day. This year’s theme is ‘Intergenerational Solidarity: Creating a world for all ages’.