After being involved in a terrible car accident that she was lucky to survive, Peta Hooper realised she was put on this earth to make a difference. Little did she know that, through her own children, she would realise her calling.
“I always wanted to be a hands-on mum and was lucky enough to not have to work when my kids were babies,” Mrs Hooper says.
“Before they started school I always made sure their indoor play was education based. I watched them respond really well to their learning.”
With matchstick number games and word play after dinner – Mrs Hooper kept her three children on their toes.
“Once my kids started school and I’d given them a great start to their education journey, I realised I could help other children as well,” she says.
Mrs Hooper now works as a special needs education assistant at Cassia Primary School in South Hedland where she is helping students who need extra guidance or support.
She lives by the ethos, ‘everyone has a story, you never know what people have been through to get to where they are,’ and says all students she works with make a lasting impression on her.
Yet there is one student who Mrs Hooper says actually gave more to her than she gave to him.
“He was a Year 6 student who came to me unable to read or spell his own name. I devised a program to fit his three-day-a-week attendance,” she says.
“To incorporate the calendar, months and days of the week into his learning, we started counting down to his birthday – he didn’t actually know the date.
“When the day arrived I brought in a birthday cake and he shared it with the class. My heart was bursting with pride, he was so happy!
“His whole learning experience at Cassia Primary School was an amazing achievement for us both and really confirmed to me that I was making a difference.
“He now has the ability to go into a shop and see an item with a 50 cent price tag – to know that it is cents not dollars – to know that he does have enough money to buy it.”
Mrs Hooper has continued to broaden her knowledge to cater for the needs of the school community. She now leads a team of special needs assistants and education assistants at the school, sharing her knowledge of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder and supporting students with learning difficulties.
Principal Narelle Ward says students, parents and staff have immense respect for Mrs Hooper’s work.
“She has such insights into students and life in general which help her support student achievement, and students’ social and emotional wellbeing,” says Ms Ward.
“She’s is a true reflection of our school motto; inspire, believe and achieve.”
Mrs Hooper is one of four finalists for WA Education Assistant of the Year in the WA Education Awards 2017.
Winners will be announced at a presentation event at Crown Perth this week.