Judith Puee is an educator who, perhaps better than most, understands the importance of supporting students with special needs. She has four children and the youngest two – Bertha and Giana – were born with disabilities.
In 2005, Judith started her teaching career with a passion to bring about change in Panguna, Central Bougainville.
She and her husband are now working at Metonai Elementary School in Panguna District. Judith teaches a composite prep and grade one class, and her husband is a teaching assistant.
“Many students I’ve taught have already graduated from university,” Judith said, beaming with pride.
“Two have become high school teachers and a few are now primary school teachers.”
In addition to running Metonai Elementary, Judith is dedicated to her daughters with special needs, nine-year-old Bertha and three-year-old Giana.
Such is Judith’s commitment to her students and daughters, that she would take Bertha and Giana with her to school in a wheelbarrow when there was no one available to look after them.
In 2019, Judith and her husband first attended professional development workshops to improve their teaching skills as part of the Rapidly Increasing Standards of Education (RISE) program.
RISE is supported by the Papua New Guinea-Australia Partnership and provides training on literacy, numeracy and cross-cutting themes including gender equality and inclusive education.
The program is delivered by Save the Children in collaboration with the Autonomous Bougainville Government, church education agencies, Callan Services National Unit and the Summer Institute of Linguistics PNG.
Judith said the program equipped them with the necessary skills to improve children’s learning, including tools and strategies to support students with special needs.
“RISE helped me improve how I teach my students to read,” she said.
“It provided me with guides to simplify my teaching and help my students.”
Last year, Judith attended RISE training and contributed many valuable insights on the challenges faced by children with disabilities.
“I share the lessons I plan for my students with Bertha and Giana – reading is Bertha’s favourite subject!” Judith said.
“My kids are learning at the same level as my students in the class and Bertha can read three-letter words.”
The RISE project also supported the delivery of wheelchairs for Bertha and Giana to improve their independence, mobility in the community and access to education.
All children deserve the chance to learn and Judith will continue her mission to provide opportunities for all students in Panguna to fulfil their potential.