Subject Teacher
Education Programme

P.O. Box 9 (Siltavuorenpenger 5A)
FIN-00014 University of Helsinki


STEP Partners


Hao ry


STEP Success Stories

Veikko Havu was a STEP student in Year 2013–14 and now teaches mathematics in Australia. Here’s his story of finding employment as an immigrant in Australia:

I wanted to go to Australia, because I had already acquired permanent residency (green card) through a long process based on my engineering background. For finding a teaching job I needed to go through a long and stressful teaching registration process that is required for any teaching work, even relief, for both private and public schools. Teaching without it is illegal. The teacher registration board didn't initially believe that the STEP teaching certificate was the final and original award since it looked so simplistic and modest, but I got things sorted out finally.

For the registration I needed the minimum of level 7 in reading and writing as well as the minimum of 8 in speaking and listening on IELTS Academic (International English Language Testing System). I had to practice to get those results. Consequently, after being granted the registration, no one has asked for any proof of my English skills. However, in order to get a job, the language of your application has to be nearly perfect and you must address the selection criteria carefully. I needed people to help me on that. After my registration was granted I got work pretty quickly. I was called in for relief in a day or two.

I worked one term as a part-time teacher at St Stephen's School (Carramar) and now work full-time at Governor Stirling Senior High School (Woodbridge), both of which are in the Perth region. The latter school is in a low socioeconomic area and things can get pretty crazy at times, but the school facility itself is nice and new, located by the Swan River. In my current school the day starts at 8.50 am and finishes at 3 pm. I have 20 x 65 min classes per week. I go to work around 8.20 am and leave between 3.30 and 4 pm. I have one lunch and one recess duty per week. The union has mandated that schools can have three staff meetings in a term (equals roughly 10 weeks), each of which can last the maximum of an hour. I teach mathematics in Years 7, 9 and 10.

The union has negotiated pretty good conditions for graduate teachers in public schools. The salary is about 73,000 AUD per annum. I get 10 "graduate days" per year for non-teaching duties. I can use those days for marking and planning etc., and the school pays for a relief teacher for those days while I receive my normal pay. I get plenty of professional development (PD). I did the first module in September 2015 of this school year and I attended another Graduate Teacher Module course in November 2015. They have been really good and helpful.

Enrique Garcia Moreno-Esteva attended STEP in 2012–13 and he is now teaching mathematics at an English-medium school in Helsinki, Finland. Here is his story of finding full-time employment in Finland:

I took STEP between 2012–13.  I did not right away find employment, so I continued with a “sivulaudatur” (advanced studies in Education).  Then my mentor recommended me at Espoo International School to teach Spanish a few hours a week (not my subject, but I am a native speaker of the tongue).  And later that year, I found a full-time position teaching math in middle and high school.  One thing that I found important is that you must be able to speak Finnish relatively well.  My interview was conducted in Finnish, even though I teach in English, and I must be able to explain things in Finnish to students who are not strong in English.  So I find myself doing that a lot, especially in middle school.  Without Finnish, the prospects of teaching employment in Finland are not good, I think.

I should point out that I applied for jobs many times!  I just didn't give up.  You might have to keep trying for a while, seek your way around, and get involved in education related activities.

An interesting part of my story is how I got to STEP in the first place.  I had some activity in the mathematics department at the university, being a mathematician, but it was clear that I could not teach there, because my Finnish was lacking, and also, my research area is not represented in Helsinki (the specialists who do the kind of work I do are in Turku).  So they suggested that I look into STEP.  And that is how I found out about STEP and applied.  Unfortunately, I was late for applying in 2011, so I went for the 2012 year.

I have to say I very much like my work.  I have a wonderful group of students (our school stresses values), and I think we both like working with each other: they like me, they come for help, and I like working with them.  I work in The English School (Englantilainen Koulu).

I am still learning Finnish and I have been taking courses all the time since I arrived.  I am now doing the level 6 course (the highest level) at the university's corresponding department (not the Language Centre).  It means that after completion, I am qualified to take any course in Finnish that is offered by that department: literature, history, etc.

I think Finnish is a hard language to learn.  It is ranked by the United Nations as the most difficult language to learn along with Korean.  There is no other way to learn it than to have determination and keep at it.  I have made much progress since I took STEP.  For example, in the research I do with my Professor I can now, for the most part, analyze the videos that we take and that are in Finnish.  I can carry on an ordinary conversation with someone, perhaps pausing now and then and asking for clarification.  Getting deeper into more elaborate matters (like reading the theses and papers others write, and things we discuss in our seminar, about education) is just quite a bit harder for me... but hopefully, I will continue to improve. 

When I’ve applied for a job, no one ever asked me for a certificate of Finnish language skills, they just interviewed me in Finnish, and that was the certificate: whether I could carry on with the interview or not. For others immigrating to Finland: Learning Finnish is a very good idea if you are going to live here... and learning it as well as you can.