'Studying through flexible learning, for me, made gaining a degree an achievable goal...'
Teacher, Huntsbury Preschool, Christchurch
Having a young family of her own was perhaps the best starting point for Rachael when considering a new career in early childhood education.
'I have been working at the local Plunket toy library for about nine years,' she explains. 'It has been an amazing platform from which I've gained knowledge and experience in children's development. I have been able to build relationships with children and parents and brainstorm ideas about children's interests and their learning and cultures.'
Over this time, Rachael developed a new goal of working in a community-based preschool where this kind of interaction between families and teachers is central to her role. She is thrilled to have achieved this as soon as she graduated with her teaching degree from UC.
'I love that I am starting my teaching career in an environment that respects whānau and families as educators. I am working with supportive, experienced teachers who are mentoring me as I work towards full registration - I feel I am so supported as a new grad!
'My responsibilities revolve around providing a nurturing, caring, inclusive environment that promotes lifelong learning. I am also involved in all aspects of the preschool including policy revisions and selecting resources.'
Although initially hesitant about embarking on a major life change and going to university, Rachael was keen to be a role model for her own children by inspiring them to work hard to achieve their goals, and found exactly the support and encouragement she needed.
'I had thought about furthering my education for a long time but lacked the confidence to start a degree… I also thought that it was too late for me to start a career. A uni student on a teaching placement at my children's kindergarten encouraged me to enrol, and a teacher there also assured me that it wasn't too late, that I wasn't too old, that she had trained later in life as well… so I enrolled!'
Thanks to UC's flexible learning programme (FLO) Rachael was able to fit her studies around her family responsibilities.
'I loved flexible learning. Knowing I could be a mum when I needed to be, and watch the lectures when it was convenient for me, allowed me to structure my days so that I could achieve all that I needed to.
'The librarians and the learning centre were stand-outs for me. I was able to brainstorm with Frieda Looser at the learning centre which ensured that I examined questions from all angles. My course enabled me to reflect on issues affecting children and think about things from different aspects that I had not really considered before, to see the bigger picture…'
Rachael says that achieving your dreams is a truly satisfying accomplishment and worth all the effort.
'Studying through flexible learning, for me, made gaining a degree an achievable goal. I worked at a steady pace and managed to maintain home life and a part-time job. If you dream of making a difference to children's education and you work hard then it is possible.'