Ben Wiggins receiving his Work Integrated Learning Award

Passion for shaping the young minds of tomorrow

Ben Wiggins had an established career as a graphic designer when he decided to rethink his future and pursue his dream of becoming an early childhood teacher.

It was while creating marketing materials for childcare centres and children’s programs that were run by his then employer, that Ben became inspired to become an early childhood teacher.

“I fell into teaching randomly,” explains Ben.

“I got tired of sitting behind a desk and knew I needed a change, so I decided to take a risk and left my job to enrol in the Bachelor of Teaching (Primary)/Bachelor of Early Childhood Studies at the University of Newcastle.

“I get along well with children and am a big kid at heart, and have become extremely passionate about my studies, in particular the early childhood courses.”

Practical experience, or practicum, is compulsory for all education students at the University of Newcastle to provide an opportunity for the trainee teachers to get confidence and the skills needed to be an effective educator.

The third year student, who will graduate at the end of 2013, completed a practicum in 2011 at Erina Kindergarten, where he now works on a casual basis while completing his studies.

“My practical experience has made life at uni make sense. It’s a two-way relationship – practicum allows a student to connect the strong theory-based knowledge gained from studies at Uni to the real world, and my experience gained from working in the centre has provided me with concrete experiences to connect to my studies,” Ben said.

“It’s also an excellent opportunity to hone professional skills like effective communication and time management skills and to test whether you have picked the right career path.”

In 2011 Ben was the University of Newcastle Faculty of Education and Arts winner of the student Work Integrated Learning (WIL) Award, in recognition of his efforts during his practicum. As well as the recognition of his Faculty, Ben received $1,000 and a certificate.

“Winning the WIL Award was more motivation to keep going with my studies, and the cash prize was nice as well,” Ben said.

The WIL Awards are awarded each year to a staff and student representative of the five faculties at the University of Newcastle. Each winner receives a certificate and $1,000.

The awards are given by the Office for the Advancement of Engaged Learning and acknowledge the efforts of professional and academic staff, and students, who participate in, or promote the participation in WIL programs.

“Helping young children learn the building blocks of education, is what motivates me to be the best early childhood educator that I can be,” Ben said.

“In five years time I see myself as a room leader running a preschool program that aims to give children these necessary tools to succeed within their education and beyond which, in turn, may promote a positive disposition towards learning and see that they become life long learners.”

Applications for the 2012 WIL Awards close on Friday 14 September at 5pm. For more information and application forms visit the website or email the Work Integrated Learning team.

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