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Student story

Yaoxuan (Stella) Liu

20 July 2023

"The degree offered me great opportunities to experience different types of teaching placements..."


Bachelor of Teaching and Learning (Early Childhood)

Early Childhood Teacher, Grow Active

Tell us about your student journey to Aotearoa New Zealand.

Having graduated middle school in Jinzhou, China, I moved to New Zealand in 2015 and first studied at Burnside High School, which is one of the largest secondary schools in New Zealand – this was one of the best decisions I have ever made!

When I first came to New Zealand, I had to get familiar with the language and the culture, and with the help of the teachers and leaders at Burnside’s International Department, I settled well into Christchurch and got used to school life. Their support made me feel welcomed and loved, which is why I later became one of the leaders at the International Department and provided the same support to other new students.

One of the best things about Burnside High School is that it offers a wide range of subjects. During Year 12 I was unsure of which degree to study at university, however, I was allowed to experience subject options between Commerce and Early Childhood to gain a sense of what I will be required to study at university.

What inspired you to study Early Childhood Education?

My mother used to be an early childhood teacher in China which has had a great influence on me. Therefore, from a young age, being an early childhood teacher was one of my dreams and I wanted to contribute my skills and knowledge to make a positive difference in children’s lives.

I decided to study Early Childhood Education at UC because the College of Education is well known both nationally and internationally for its high-quality education and outstanding lecturers.  I enjoyed having lectures and studying at Rehua – a brand new building for education students with advanced equipment, the latest technology, positive learning environments, and large study spaces.

What’s more, the degree offered me great opportunities to experience different types of teaching placements at early childhood centres in Christchurch.

How did you find the teaching placements?

I went through five to ten weeks of placements per year which allowed me to apply and deepen the theoretical knowledge gained through lectures and workshops to real practice. During each placement, my lecturers would visit to assess and resolve any potential issues. The placements also supported me in developing my knowledge, relationships, and professional practice as a teacher.

Teaching placements are compulsory for Bachelor of Teaching and Learning students and my lecturers helped us find local centres, so the placements was definitely a major advantage of the programme.

Has there been support on hand at UC?

One aspect which impressed me the most is the wide range of extra support, especially when I first came to UC. There were many student volunteers and staff who assisted me and showed me around the campus during my first year.

The Academic Skills Centre also gave me extra support on how to write a well-structured and professional essay. Moreover, the friendly librarians from UC Central Library recommended many useful books that were relevant to my degree and taught me how to correctly reference academic sources using APA referencing.

What has been a highlight of your degree?

I was lucky enough to go on an overnight field trip to Māori marae. This trip was beneficial for students as we were able to gain additional knowledge about Māori culture through games, workshops, group activities, and sharing meals at the marae.

This experience was meaningful to me because as a teacher in New Zealand, we must understand the history and culture of Māori in New Zealand, and we have the responsibility to assist the development of New Zealand as a bicultural country. I would highly recommend this field trip experience to other students.

What did you enjoy the most about the UC student experience?

At UC, there’s a diverse range of clubs and events any student can be a part of! Throughout my time I was involved in the photography club, yoga club, dance club, the Student Volunteer Army, and the Malaysian club. My active participation in these clubs and experiences have helped me get out of my comfort zone, balance my school and social life, and most importantly, gain many friends with who I am still in touch.

Congratulations for graduating! Tell us about your life as a teacher in Aotearoa New Zealand.

I now work as a qualified and registered early childhood teacher at Grow Active in Christchurch.

As an early childhood teacher, I build respectful and reciprocal relationships with children and their parents and families. We strive to create a safe and welcoming environment to ensure that all children and families feel a sense of belonging and wellbeing at the centre. I carefully observe each child throughout the daily programme, then plan and facilitate suitable activities that are based on their interests, strengths, abilities, and funds of knowledge. I make it a point to capture amazing moments at the centre and write learning stories to document children’s growth and development, it’s truly fulfilling work.

Has your UC degree equipped you with work-ready skills and graduate opportunities? 

Yes, the placements throughout my degree helped me become familiar with the daily routines and activities in early childhood centres as well as the responsibilities and expectations of an ECE teacher. It also helped me gain useful skills such as teamwork, problem-solving, and leadership which allowed me to settle down into my new job efficiently.  

Also, the lecture content with its theoretical knowledge allowed me to develop my teaching philosophies and style which I have been able to apply within my everyday life at work.

What are your ambitions from here?

In the future, I would like to research disability, inclusion, and exclusion in early childhood education. I have always been interested in this area, and hope to be an advocate in striving for high-quality education for all children.

I would like to become a role model for all children and teach essential life skills such as great manners, honesty, building connections, independence, and facing challenges. I am passionate about increasing knowledge about our unique differences so that children will acknowledge, respect, and accept each other’s differences to promote inclusiveness and acceptance for all.

Any advice for future students?

Get out of your comfort zone! I realised that university is not only about studying but also about getting to know the people around you and making life-long friends. Continue to strive for excellence within everyday life and don’t give up. All UC staff including lecturers and tutors will be eager to help you out when in need. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or for help because the teaching staff will also want you to achieve at your best.

Finally, treasure your time as a UC student! Although your life at UC may feel long, it is a short journey when you look at it from the other side!

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