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Despite an unconventional childhood involving foster homes and no parental presence, TAFE NSW graduate Jade Penhall has used her self-proclaimed rebellious attitude and fierce determination to excel in several ways.

These include becoming a loving parent to two children, completing an art and design degree, establishing then selling a printing business, moving to Tingira Heights from the UK and, now, commencing a career as an early childhood teacher in Wallsend.

This milestone may be her most successful yet. A recent TAFE NSW study found that in the NSW North Coast ‘early childhood teacher’ is expected to be the third-fastest growing occupation between 2018-2021. It will see employment growth of 12.6%, compared to the overall growth average of 1.2% for the region.

Having recently graduated with a Bachelor of Early Childhood Education and Care (Birth-5) from TAFE NSW Glendale, Jade is now making her mark at Merindah Children’s Centre in Wallsend and loving it.

“I love children and because I had a colourful childhood, I’ve always seen children in an idealistic way. I really want to make sure they have the best support and are always happy, content and safe,” Ms Penhall said.

“Working with children is wonderful; they’re so beautiful. They’re honest and open, and they genuinely love to learn. It’s refreshing, as your time is genuinely valued. The more time you put in the more appreciation you get.

“I love my job and so do my own kids because I bring ideas home and try them out on them first! We do a lot of science experiments and art play at home and they love helping to make resources for the classes.

“My main advice to those wondering if they can do an early childhood degree is not to listen to anyone else. Believe in yourself, make your own goals and achieve them at your pace. Be true to yourself and you’ll succeed.”

It is worthy advice - Ms Penhall won the Higher Education Award for Outstanding Student at the TAFE NSW Higher Education Graduation Ceremony in Sydney earlier this year.

She said: “I’d definitely recommend TAFE NSW. I’m super grateful for all the help and support given, it has been inspiring. I’m not straight out of school, I’m a parent, and I went to TAFE NSW thinking I wasn’t clever enough and couldn’t do it. Instead, the teachers restored my confidence. They’re really great, they genuinely care.”

Merindah Children’s Centre operations manager Val Tillett said, “Jade is a professional team member. Her role oversees that learning is actively planned and driven by all team members in the room to ensure that the children are engaged in meaningful and significant learning. She has been a positive role model and has worked diligently in driving the pedagogical outcomes of the infant room in collaboration with key educators.”

Australia’s largest training provider, TAFE NSW offers over 1200 courses, from certificates to degrees. Many can be studied online via TAFE Digital, when and where it suits students. Visit or call 131 601.