Every month we pick one hardworking TA and we shout to the rooftops about them. This month it’s all about Marcela.

Marcela is both a classroom and a SEND Teaching Assistant with seven years of experience in UK schools. She is a Montessori qualified Level 4 Early Years Educator. Marcela decided to work as a TA after becoming a mother which meant she became very interested in what goes into education. She has a degree in illustration which she uses in her TA work whenever she can. We interviewed Marcela, whose TA mantra is “be flexible and creative!”, about her experiences and qualifications as a TA.

What qualifications do you currently have?

I am an early years Level 4 educator which means I can be a room leader with real responsibilities. To reach this level I trained part-time for two years and did a 400-hour placement. Being Montessori trained means I had additional training 1 on 1 sessions, child assessment and activity planning.

My phonics training came courtesy of my previous school who paid for me to train in the Read, Write Inc which in turn grew into leading phonics groups - which I consider to be a great responsibility and a joy to teach.

What SEN experience have you had?

I have worked with children on the autistic spectrum. In particular, I worked two days a week with a boy with complex needs, who was non-verbal and on the autistic spectrum. I would liaise with his teacher and his speech and language therapist who advised me on his needs. In this position I learnt about using basic pictorial text and images and set visual time tables for him, on now and next, to show the order of the day and to give him choices.

When working with a SEN child, I draw on my Montessori training and make use of concrete materials they have in the classroom to try various approaches until I find something that works. That’s the best moment, I think, for someone who teaches - you’re working with a child who is clearly struggling and then suddenly they start to get it.

How has art helped you as a TA?

My degree was in illustration so I love drawing and making paper objects. It’s been really useful for me when I have to plan for extracurricular clubs and when children have creative tasks to do. I’ve loved it when teachers have made use of these skills and asked me to help in these areas. In a previous role, I was asked to lead and present the Montesorri art curriculum and I planned and ran those lessons, which was really fun!

Why did you choose to work with Zen Educate?

I felt that I was respected and appreciated for what I had to offer and I really liked the quality of communication from the people I spoke to, from the very beginning. They always asked about my needs and what works best for me, they always keep me informed.

I signed up with an agency at the same time as Zen and I’ve found I ended up almost exclusively working for Zen as they always have the best quality bookings and they pay better!

What do you think you need to know as a TA?

I’m a big believer in positive enforcement - it helps me to understand that children aren’t just wilfully breaking the rules but there is often so much more going on. So I focus on clearly setting expectations that are positive. For example, I’ll always say “walking feet indoors, indoor voices” rather than “don’t do this, don’t do that”.

I always make sure I get friendly with the photocopying machine at each placement as well as the laminator! Communication wise with teachers I just keep asking what to do, it’s rare for me to sit down in the classroom unless I’m doing one on one work - so I will go and check-in with the teacher to see what they need from me. My overall mantra is to be flexible and creative.

What can schools do to best support supply TAs?

Take the time to show me to the classroom, where the staff room is and where the restrooms are. I love it when a class teacher has a timetable printed out or takes a minute to talk me through the timings of the days so I can make notes. These gestures make a huge difference.

Here’s Marcela’s video profile so you can learn about what she considers her key strength and proudest moment.


If you’d like to know more about Marcela you can check out her profile by clicking here. Marcela is just one of the fantastic TAs that we currently have available, sign up or log in now to find out more.