Teacher selected to study Italian system

Alexandra Primary School teacher Debbie Steel looks forward 
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Alexandra Primary School teacher Debbie Steel looks forward to her next three years of studying towards a a doctorate in Reggio childhood studies at the University of Modena, in Italy. Ms Steel is one of 10 worldwide to be chosen for the programme and the only one in New Zealand to receive a prestigious scholarship to study the educational philosophy. PHOTO: PAM JONES
Alexandra teacher Debbie Steel feels like the stars have aligned as she has won a once-in-a-lifetime educational opportunity.

She wants children to benefit most from her good fortune, and the world to benefit from her learnings. That would be the real value of her studies, both until now and in the future, she said.

"You learn a lot, and then you want to give back."

Ms Steel, who has taught at Alexandra Primary School for the past 12 years and before that in Clyde and Omakau, has received a prestigious international scholarship to study an educational philosophy she has followed for much of her teaching career.

She leaves New Zealand today to begin a fully funded three-year doctorate in Reggio childhood studies at the University of Modena, in Italy.

The Reggio Emilia educational philosophy was a collaborative, pupil-led one that put relationships at the centre of everything, Ms Steel said.

This did not mean only teacher-pupil relationships, but relationships with family and the environment, and also by learning through art.

"Everything's based on positive relationships, including listening - listening to what a child is telling you."

This is the first time a doctorate in Reggio studies has been offered. Ten PhD students from 32 applicants internationally have been chosen for the programme. Eight of them, including Ms Steel, have received scholarships.

Ms Steel, who is the only New Zealander to be chosen for the programme, said it was "incredible" and "emotional" to receive the honour.

"The Reggio philosophy is something I have followed for about 20 years. It feels like the stars have all aligned, to be given this opportunity."

Ms Steel will live in the township of Reggio Emilia while studying. The programme will be delivered in English, but involves time spent working with school children, so Ms Steel will learn Italian while she is there.

She said she was excited about the potential to spread the Reggio philosophy in New Zealand and internationally after the completion of her doctorate, and about the benefits that would bring children and wider communities.

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