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West Kempsey celebrates two new qualified Teachers (and a new hire!)

Assistant Director, Christie, and new ECT, Lucy, studied at the same university.

Careers and employment

Article by Deni Kirkova

Lucinda Foran did a placement for her degree at Goodstart West Kempsey – where Christie Rayward was already working. After impressing the team, they offered Lucinda, who goes by Lucy, a Teaching job.

Christie and Lucy are now the newest qualified Teachers at West Kempsey, in New South Wales.

They both studied for a bachelor’s degree in education (birth to five) at Charles Sturt University, graduating in April 2024. But how they got here are very different stories.

Studying the same course and working together

Christie is the Assistant Director at West Kempsey and also the Educational Leader. She’s been at the centre for seven years.

And Lucy has just started there as an Early Childhood Teacher. She completed a five-week placement at the centre as part of her degree. During her practical placement at West Kempsey, Lucy worked with 3-5-year-olds. She impressed the team, who wanted to offer her a role. But she still had one more placement to do before finishing her course.

Lucy said: “The university doesn't like you doing them at one place. So, you have to go to different centres, and I couldn't do all of mine here. After my practical at West Kempsey, I went to another centre in December 2023 and did the baby component. That was another four weeks. Then, I started working here in January.”

Christie said: “Lucy came to do her practical placement here. That’s when we realised, we were studying the same course at the same university.

“She did really well here, and so we asked her, ‘Do you have ideas of where you see yourself after you finish? We would like to offer you a position if you want to have an interview.’ And that’s how it happened.”

Why choose to go into early learning?

Back when Christie was trying to work out what she wanted to do, she worked in retail. She decided to study early childhood education thanks to her sister.

Christie said: “She was already in early learning and knew someone running a private centre in Blacktown. They were looking for someone with a diploma, but I still hadn’t done my Certificate III. Luckily, I was able to study and come on board. I had to do a lot more modules than everybody else on my course. In the end, I studied for my Diploma one night a week and worked for four days at the centre.”

Christie worked as an educator at the private early learning centre for a while before moving to Goodstart West Kempsey as a casual. Seven years later, she’s now the Assistant Director and Educational Leader.

For Lucy, her journey to the sector was a bit different. She said: “I did my diploma a long time ago. But then ironically, I couldn't work in early childhood education.

“My husband had a Monday to Friday job [and we had children], therefore, I could only work on the weekends. So, I worked in retail every weekend for 10 years. Throughout that time, I've had five children. I didn't want to be at home the entire time while raising young children. So, I worked through all my pregnancies except the last two.

“But then I wanted to do something for myself while I was at home, and I thought, I'll finish my degree. I had the credits from the diploma. So I decided to qualify as an Early Childhood Teacher while I'm home and have the opportunity to study.”

Providing opportunities to get a degree and upskillThe team at West Kempsey with the childrenThe team at West Kempsey with the children

Christie started to study for her degree four or five years ago but put it on hold. Then, an opportunity came up for her to resume her degree with the support offered by Goodstart.

The centre director had stepped down and Renee Smailes stepped up. Then their teacher left and moved into NDIS – but she was their Educational Leader as well. So, Christie's centre faced a shortage.

She said: “Our centre director Renee reached out to me and said, ‘Is there any chance you want to continue studying? Here's what we can put in place.’

“I realised I wanted to do it and that’s where I want to be heading long-term. Of course, it is so important that educators are passionate about wanting to work here for the children. But the pay rise associated with the higher qualification helps as well.”

Going from the private sector to a not-for-profit poses many positives, in Christie’s view and experience.

She said: “We have more support around like inclusion and safety. With my previous centre director, there was no one above her. If there was an issue that we felt wasn't being met, it was hard to escalate. 

"For example, if we’ve used all our budget to purchase resources early. Here, there's a lot of grants and UA Funding (now Start Strong Funding), which help to provide that stability and support network.”

Being the largest provider of early learning in Australia, Goodstart provides a wealth of resources for its centres. With the movement of people between centres and upwards through promotions, compliance gaps provide extra opportunities for people to upskill and develop their careers in-centre.

Supported to study while working full-time

Even though Lucy and Christie studied the same course, they didn’t meet until the end.

Christie said: “We were online, distance learning, and never picked up the same subjects at the same time. It was just pure chance that she chose to do her practical here. I was working full-time so we met during her placement at the centre.”

Goodstart helped Christie to work full-time and study with the THRIVE program. This supports Educators in studying towards their bachelor degrees. 

The THRIVE program is dependent on funding and changes yearly. The 2022-2023 offered options for paid placement and study days.

Christie said: “I liked the fact that I was able to change the program to meet my needs. One year I changed it because I knew I was doing my practicals. So, Goodstart paid me two weeks for the ‘Birth to Two’ practical, which was five weeks, and two weeks for the ‘Three to Five’ practical, which was four weeks total. And then, when I knew I just needed it for study, I changed it back to study days off [one a month].

“The THRIVE program meant the course didn't cut so much into my leave. But I did have to take annual and purchased leave. Otherwise, I would have had no time with my family. I have three not-so-littles! A 20-year-old, a 12 and an 11-year-old.

“[Centre director] Renee was supportive with everything. I showed her my schedule and when my assignments were due. Together, we worked around it to make sure I was able to finish them on time without stressing.”

The West Kempsey team shared a Facebook post where Christie gave Renee a shout-out in the comments for being supportive.

What’s next for these new Early Childhood Teacher grads?

Since both Christie and Lucy are now qualified teachers at Goodstart, they can access Thriving Teachers. The initiative supports Goodstart teachers at every stage, from early career to experienced.

Christie said: “I'm interested to see how the organisation will support us more in the future. From what I've read, we can claim our NESA payment [through tax] to keep our accreditation active. Thriving Teachers can help us navigate this.”

The refreshed program lets Goodstart teachers tap into a wide scope of professional development. Each opportunity is tailored to individual needs so teachers can reach their potential. They help ECTs demonstrate practice at proficient teacher standards.

Looking back at their experience during their degree, Lucy and Christie shared the best bits.

Lucy said she enjoyed learning about child development and the reasoning behind processes. She said: “A parent or another educator may not realise the extent of why you thought through to do something the way that you did. I liked that part of the degree.”

Christie said: “I liked learning about the importance of those first few years. Just how much learning and development occurs and the importance of knowing when a child is not meeting their milestones. Then, who best to reach out to and connect with to support them.”

Sharing her top tips for educators, Christie added: “Reach out to your centre leadership team and just ask, ‘How do I upskill? What are the benefits for me?’

“People should know, you’re never too old. I’m 42. And if you've got a supportive network around you, not just at work, but even in your home life it just makes it a lot easier.”

Interested in a career at Goodstart? Learn about teaching or explore roles.

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