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Finding a degree that makes a difference

When Blake’s plans were derailed by a delightful accident, he was lead down a path towards career happiness.

 Finding a degree that makes a difference

It was a quirk of fate - an academic “accident” - that led Blake Stewart to the door of his passion.

He was interested in being a primary school teacher, and after he finished high school he hatched a pretty complicated plot: enrol in a Bachelor of Arts at university, switch to a TAFE NSW Bachelor of Early Childhood Education and Care, and then switch back to university with credit towards a primary school teaching degree.

Education plans change

If you're studying, you can't go wrong. Things happen, and they are often unexpected. Blake surprised himself. Within weeks of studying early childhood education at TAFE NSW, Blake found his calling. He was hooked.

“I found the first five years of a child’s life are the most crucial time for learning and development; I realised that I had a passion for this,” Blake says.

“Two weeks into my degree and I was completely committed to it.”

His next challenge was to help shift perceptions about men in childcare.Blake on trike at work with a child he's caring for

Making a difference

Only about 5 per cent of early childhood educators are male and Blake could sense some initial trepidation from parents during his first work placement.

Through Blake’s passion for early childhood education, he was able to shift the parents’ and carers’ misconceptions about male educators.

Blake’s passion and proficiency soon shone through.

“The parents became very supportive,” he says.

“They could see I was becoming a positive male role model for some of their children, especially those who had no male role model at home.

“The experience sparked an advocacy in me that flowed through my entire four-year degree.”

Education tailored to employment

Blake accepted a position as a full-time teacher at the same place he did his internship. He says the flexibility of TAFE NSW meant he was able to balance the internship with his final year studies.

“I was able to do classes at night-time and also learn online.

“The prac gives you career experience while you study and every lecturer I had at TAFE was very personable.

“They showed interest in my academic career and my life that went over and above the classroom.

“They don’t see you as a number, they see you as an individual.”

Blake is turning out to be quite an extraordinary individual! About 12 months ago, he was promoted from early childhood educator to director of the centre he was employed at, St Luke’s Preschool in Dapto. At 25 years old, that makes him among the youngest preschool directors in Australia.

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