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Helping students to live their dreams

Providing students with the opportunity to reach for the stars is a priority at ACG Tauranga, and as a result, teachers often design creative or unusual study programmes to help balance a student’s academic coursework with their extracurricular commitments.
Lily Balsom

One example of the effectiveness of this approach can be seen in the results of accomplished freeride skier, Lily Balsom. Lily’s skiing commitments in both New Zealand and Canada during 2019 meant a lot of travel for the fifteen-year-old, yet she was determined to complete her Year 11 IGCSE coursework throughout.

“Lily has an incredible talent and it is important that she gets the chance to pursue this when the opportunities arise without jeopardising her education,” said ACG Tauranga Business Studies Teacher, Ms Nicky Gawler. “By being able to give her the flexibility to balance her learning around the training and competitions it meant that she didn’t have to sacrifice one to the other.”

After discussing the best study path to follow with Lily and her mother Jan, Lily’s teachers organised a correspondence programme which enabled her to maintain her skiing commitments. And with the help of weekly online tutorials, Lily was able to manage all of her coursework content and assessments.

Lily found the transition of moving from a more traditional classroom setting to correspondence-based studies an easy one.

“It didn’t take very long to get used to, I loved having the flexibility of being able to ski in the morning or afternoon and complete schoolwork around that,” she reported. “Having such supportive teachers that understand my flexible timetable helped significantly.

Although the extramural learning experience was different, Lily completed the same curriculum as her classmates in the Year 11 cohort.

“Along with worksheets and notes from each class, I sent a summary email each week outlining what we had covered and what I had planned for the following week – that way Lily could keep track of where we were up to as well,’ explained Ms Gawler.

“In addition, Lily sat her assessments under exam conditions and afterwards we would chat via Facetime about her results. We also met for a tutoring session during the term three holidays to cover the content that she wanted to feel more secure about.”

To make sure that everything was progressing smoothly and to check whether anything further was needed, Lily’s teachers kept in regular contact with Jan as well.

Thanks to her hard work and positive attitude, Lily arrived back at ACG Tauranga for term four up-to-date and ready for her external exams with a solid understanding of the course content.

Extremely appreciative of their help, Lily was keen to recognise the extra efforts of her teachers.

“I can’t thank them enough for their continuous support throughout the year, it has allowed me to pursue what I am passionate about while still receiving a fantastic education.

“This wouldn't have been possible without the assistance of my teachers, another massive thank you especially to Ms Gawler, Miss Wood and Mrs Webb for the amazing help I received last year.”