Isabel Jukes shares her story of moving from fine arts to the world of early childhood
The Sector > Jobs News > Isabel Jukes shares her story of moving from fine arts to the world of early childhood

Isabel Jukes shares her story of moving from fine arts to the world of early childhood

by Freya Lucas

February 21, 2023

Early childhood teacher (ECT) Isabel Jukes was inspired to be an ECT because she was interested in making a difference in the world. She recently shared the story of her career journey with alma mata, the Queensland University of Technology (QUT).


While she initially began studying a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Drama) she soon changed to the Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood) after spending a gap year working as an Assistant English Teacher in Spain. 


“I was working in a high school and realised quickly that the older age group wasn’t for me,” she explained, “but I realised that all my previous part-time work had been in education, and it was a strong interest. When I came back to Brisbane, I enrolled in a Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood).


“I didn’t know what early childhood education was when I was first looking at courses,” Ms Jukes said. 


“Initially I thought I’d be a primary teacher. However, it became clear to me that the early childhood education degree simply gave me more options. I could open my career prospects to primary school, long day care, kindergarten, admin, director, consultant, and the list goes on.”


Ms Jukes believes the practicum structure of QUT allows students to know during their first year of study if this is the career for them. 


“I think one of the best things about the Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood) at QUT is that you gain professional experience in semester two of your first year,” she said. 


“While you feel like you are being thrown into the deep end, you are given lots of support by the university and know straight away whether this is the career for you. My favourite subject from the degree was the Managing Challenging Student Behaviours Related to Complex Trauma. I have not only used the learnings from this unit in my teaching but I have also applied them to relationships in my private life.”


While studying, Ms Jukes attended a few Queensland Early Childhood Sustainability Network (QECSN) meetings and through those she connected with some teachers and professionals who allowed her to come and visit their kindergartens to see how they implement a bush kindy program. 


“This was beneficial to me as I was able to observe different practices and how I can use these methods as an educator,” she said.


“I was also able to secure a job at my current centre by networking with one of the tutors. I had expressed an interest in risky and nature play to my lecturer Dr Sally Savage, who subsequently included it as one of the weeks of content for EUB205 Child Health, Wellbeing, Safety and Movement,” Ms Jukes explained. 


“She then invited me to visit Everton Park Child Care and Development Centre, which is a well-renowned centre of Excellence (three times running) and has an in-house bush kindy program.” 


“At the time of the visit there were no positions open, but Sally contacted me a year later to tell me there were positions opening. I applied and started working at the centre. I took on the ECT role in September 2022 when the other teacher went on maternity leave and will be continuing the role in 2023.”


In the future, Ms Jukes plans to continue working in the sector, and said she is interested in “doing a long road trip around Australia in the not-too-distant future and undertaking casual supply work in early learning centres to broaden my experience.” 


“I also have an interest in community kindergartens, so I would like to explore working in that type of service one day as well. Other than that, I am open to seeing where the opportunities take me, while staying firmly within the early childhood sector.”


Ms Jukes has some advice to others who are thinking about undertaking their Bachelor of Early Childhood to become an ECT. 


“I have two pieces of advice. The first is to secure a part-time or casual job in an early childhood setting while undertaking the degree. This can sometimes come out of your first professional experience as it did for me. I cannot stress how important it is to have ongoing practical experience outside of placement. While you will get 90 days of professional experience through your course, it is very different being a prac student to working in a centre. This will be the difference between you being overwhelmed, burnt out and struggling in your first year as an ECT, to being challenged but overall successful. In my experience, employers will also generally look at your experience more than your grades.”


“The second piece of advice I have leads on from this,” she continued. 


“Do not be afraid to do the course on your own timeline. For the first three and a half years of my university experience, I did the course at a full-time subject load. This was exhausting when you add 10 to 20 hours of part-time work on the side. I decided to spread my third and fourth years out over three years, and this has honestly been the best decision I made.” 


“It has allowed me to take on more days at work and already have a year’s experience as an ECT before graduating, while still maintaining some work-life balance. Just ensure you consult someone from your university that your new course progression will work with the different course requirements before committing to that path.”

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