Service Manager (Learning Support), Ministry of Education
- Master of Applied Psychology in Behaviour Analysis
- Postgraduate Diploma in the Practice of Psychology in Applied Behaviour Analysis
Born and bred in Kuwait, Leny Thomas did his undergraduate and master’s study in India, before deciding to move to New Zealand in 2009 to advance his psychology career.
Today, he works for the Ministry of Education in Hamilton, supporting children, schools and early childhood centres in the region.
Studying at Waikato
Leny was attracted to Waikato due to the reputation of the University’s School of Psychology and its Applied Behaviour Analysis programme.
“The course came highly recommend from a friend who was already studying at the University of Waikato. My lecturers were very supportive and gave me time to adapt to the New Zealand education system, as it was very different from India.”
He completed his Master of Applied Psychology in 2010 and a Postgraduate Diploma in the Practice of Psychology in Applied Behaviour Analysis in 2012.
Leny says that the skills, knowledge and experiences he gained at Waikato have helped him throughout his career to-date.
“The School of Psychology, led at the time by Emeritus Professor Mary Foster, gave me a really great foundation and framework to build a career in psychology on.”
Working in the community
After graduating from Waikato, he did an internship with the Ministry of Education. He then worked for Intellectual Disability and Empowerment Action (IDEA) Services, part of the IHC Group, before becoming a registered psychologist for the Ministry of Education’s Te Kahu Tōī, Intensive Wraparound Service (IWS).
In this role, Leny worked for nine years providing specialist psychological services to tamariki, their whānau and schools. This involved developing robust assessment and intervention plans for children with significant learning and/or behavioural challenges.
Earlier this year, Leny moved into a Service Manager (Learning Support) role at the Ministry, where he manages a specialist team of psychologists, special education advisors, occupational therapists, speech language therapist, early intervention teachers and an advisor of deaf children.
“We provide both individual and systems supports for around 20 schools and 40 early childhood centres in North Hamilton. A huge part of my role is to ensure whānau and tamariki have seamless support for their learning support needs.”
It’s a job he loves.
“I like the impact I can have with my colleagues, and the small changes I can make with the children, teachers, families and schools that I support.”
Pursue your passion
A highlight of Leny’s time at Waikato were the connection he made, many people who he keeps in touch with today.
Leny says the School of Psychology provided the foundation for his professional success.
“Emeritus Professor Mary Foster shaped me and my training as a psychologist, while Dr Richard Etheredge made sure I had the right support in place as an intern. Both these educators have been influential in where I am today, as they helped me to develop my confidence and critical thinking.”
Leny’s advice to students and graduates is that if you really believe in something you want to achieve, work hard, and go for it.
“If psychology is something your passionate about, then pursue it. The journey is not always easy, especially for an international student being away from home. Persistence is the key.”