Teacher aides have been boosted with a welcome pay rise as a pay-equity scheme "20 years in the making" comes into effect.
They have called the move "life-changing", and one says she can now start her first saving account after eight years in the job.
The "historic" pay equity deal has lifted their incomes by 23 to 34 per cent.
The deal would cost about $70 million a year and would start teacher aides on 88 per cent of the wage of a fully trained beginner teacher.
The deal, on top of a collective agreement last November, lifted their starting rate from $17.70 to $21.20 an hour, or $44,096 for a full-time role.
Many in the profession would have woken up to a healthy bank balance as the Ministry of Education backpaid the new wage from February this year.
The Rotorua Daily Post met teacher aides from Westbrook Primary School to hear the personal difference the pay rise had made for them.
Sue Poole, who had been in the industry for 14 years, called it "life-changing" saying many have been living on the "bones of their butts" for so long and they finally felt "valued".
"It's the little things. I'll now be able to replace four tyres on my car when I need to, not just two at a time."
She said today was "historic" after "20-years in the making".
"It's not just about the money in the bank, we finally feel valued and recognised."
Julie Voss had been a teacher aide for more than eight years, working specifically with deaf children as a sign communicator.
She said today she could finally open her first savings account after never being able to afford it before.
Although it was the "most rewarding" job, she said it was an incredible feeling to be appreciated for the hard work teacher aides put in.
Teacher aide Sarah Dunn started a photography business as a side hustle on her weekends simply to get by on her previous wage.
"I was really struggling to keep up."
She said the rise would let her "actually have a life" as she had been "very limited" on what she could afford after car loans, rent and general living costs.
"I've never loved a job more than I love this job, but having some more financial freedom will be amazing."
Dunn used her lunch breaks and after-school time to run drama clubs and teach children guitar, one of the many extracurricular things that many part-time teacher aides did out of their work hours.
NZEI Te Riu Roa representative Julie-Anne Roberts said the backpay and new rates coming through was a "major milestone".
"Teacher aides have worked and waited so long for this day, and it's wonderful to hear the difference it's going to make professionally and personally.
"I've heard stories of women who are excited about buying new clothes for their kids or being able to travel to visit elderly parents. It really is life-changing."
The new scheme also represented a step towards closing the country's gender pay gap of 11 per cent, with 86 per cent of teacher aides being female.
Teacher aide Justin Jamieson said the new pay meant that he could start considering going to university to do his dream degree in marine biology and engineering as he had not been able to afford study prior.
However, teacher aide Jeanene Lysaght said there was a collective concern among colleagues as they thought after a year of ministry help it fell on the school to carry on paying the new wage.
She said this was a worry in terms of job security and if schools could afford to keep them all in work.
However, the Ministry of Education's deputy secretary early learning and student achievement Ellen MacGregor-Reid said school Boards of Trustees would be given funding each year to meet the cost of the new pay equity rates.
"Today marks a significant day for teacher aides. It is a historic moment for women, and a step towards the Government's commitment to addressing pay equity in the education sector.
"These new rates and the wider settlement recognise the important role that teacher aides play in their school community," she said.
The pay deal was the biggest equity settlement since 55,000 caregivers won one, led by Kristine Bartlett in 2017.