The decision to return to university after 10 years of professional working takes courage and conviction. Bronwyn Aitkin gave up her career in the hospitality industry to tackle a Health Science and Diploma of Education degree. Now she is putting her study into practice teaching home economics and health at Victoria’s Gladstone Park Secondary College.
I’ve had an advantage because I’ve worked for quite a few years before teaching. In that sense I’ve been lucky. I started my chef apprenticeship in my mid 20s, and decided to stay in hospitality. So I spent about 10 years working, then decided to go back to complete my Bachelor of Health Science at Deakin University.
Then, I had to decide what to do with all my experience and decided to do my DipEd [at RMIT], which I completed last year. I found the first 12 months of studying quite interesting and wondered whether I could actually do it. Going back to school with all the kids coming out of high school was quite difficult, they give you a bit of a wide berth.
But I put my head down, I made a commitment to it and wanted to do it really successfully. I came out with a Bachelor of Heath Science distinction, so it was nice to come out with that after three years of hard work.
I went on two placements to two very different schools, both gave me a really valuable experience. One was in a Catholic school and one was in a state school, so they had different demographics and a different sort of ethos. I had some fantastic mentors with industry experience. I was blessed to have the mentors I had.
This year I’ve been teaching Year 8 and 10, getting to know students and building relationships. The staff have been really supportive, so it’s just about finding my feet with all the basics — all the things that come up in a school environment.
Having worked in hospitality, I have lots of stories I can share and lots of different ways of doing things. It’s not about teaching them more complicated things, but more about giving them variations on a theme, or thinking about current trends that might interest them.
I was feeling a little bit nervous before my first class — not knowing the students and what’s coming. I’m starting to get to know them now.