There comes a point in your working life where you face a fork in the road: pursue your goals or stay within your comfort zone. But what if you could have both?
All you really need is a passion for helping children learn important life skills. We’re talking about starting or changing careers to become an early childhood educator.
That’s what Cherie Fensom did 15 years ago, with Communities at Work – and she hasn’t looked back. Beginning as a casual educator in 2008, she’s now the Manager of their Richardson Child Care and Education Centre. It’s a career path that allowed her to enjoy rewarding roles like centre support educator, team leader, and educational leader.
So what does she enjoy most about working in early childhood education and care?
“The best thing is the relationships that you build along the way,” Cherie says.
“I see families and children that I cared for back when I first started. Some of them are now finishing high school and college and they still recognise me. To know that I’ve had such a positive impact is pretty special.”
“It’s incredibly rewarding to know that what you’re doing every day is helping a little person to develop important social and emotional skills that will form the foundation for their future life success. It doesn’t get better than that!”
“We work with children from all backgrounds, even those from trauma backgrounds. That can be a lot to handle for them and their families. But being able to be a safe place for that child and their family is something we take very seriously and with a lot of pride.”
According to Cherie once you join early education and care, endless career paths and opportunities open.
Communities at Work offer Certificate III and Diploma courses in early childhood education through their own Registered Training Organisation, as well as an ‘earn while you learn’ approach. Cherie says the organisation also offer unlimited support through trainers, inductions, Individual Development Plans and more – helping educators confidentially start or move forward in their careers.
“Even as a manager, I know if there’s something I need, I have an unlimited amount of support connections I can reach out to. And even if they’re unsure, we work through challenges together,” says Cherie.
“Look, there’s no secret that across the nation the sector is struggling – like many others. But I feel early education and care is perfect for someone who wants to make or be a part of a change, be recognised for their efforts, and who loves teaching and learning with children. Not one day is the same.”
But Cherie is keen to stress that an early childhood educator’s role is so much more than babysitting children while the parents go to work.
“I think people are slowly starting to recognise that early education and care educators are more than ‘just a babysitter’ or someone who ‘gets to play all day’. But we definitely have a long way to go still,” she points out.
“Many people don’t realise that we study for years to get our qualifications. And even after we have these qualifications, we’re continually trying to improve ourselves, our services, and practices.”
“Educators work hard to make sure that all the practices at their centre are guided by the sector laws and regulations. Educators also work with families to include their cultures and values and children’s individual needs into the centre’s program planning and activities. It’s about collaborating so the children get the best quality care and education. It’s about creating a place where everyone feels as though they belong.”
From making cakes for a birthday and dancing to the Wiggles to helping infants learn how to hold a spoon and then assisting educators with their studies, for Cherie every day is different.
“I’ve been working with Communities at Work for 15 years and don’t see myself leaving anytime soon,” she says.
“The organisation is still helping me pursue all my goals and giving me a rewarding career and life. That’s one of the reasons why Communities at Work has won the Large Employer of the Year at the ACT Training Awards for five years in a row. I find myself growing prouder and prouder of this organisation every year!”
And for someone who’s looking for a career but also wanting to have a family, Cherie says Communities at Work is perfect.
“The organisation offers amazing benefits to educators with children and is very flexible as it knows firsthand how important a work-life balance is.”
Want to change or start your career? Forget the fork in the road – create your own path.