Mackay graduate follows her dream into the classroom

04 March 2023
Sheena Shaxson

CQUniversity graduate Sheena Shaxson is a testament to the saying ‘it is never too late to follow your dreams’.

In 1993, the Mackay local initially enrolled at CQUniveristy with aspirations to become a high school science teacher.

After her first attempt at tertiary education was put on hold, Sheena said she couldn’t have been prouder as she received her testamur, more than two decades later, at the recent 2023 Mackay graduation ceremony.

“While my study journey did not go as I had originally planned, 20 years later I had a realisation that I still had a lot of years to work and was now ready to be a teacher," Sheena said.

“I am vastly different to the person I was before I began my course to the person I am now.

“Since I had good memories from my early years, it was an easy decision to re-enrol and begin my course as a mature student at CQUniversity.”

Sheena initially enrolled in a Vocational Education and Training (VET) course before continuing into a Bachelor of Education (Primary), which she said helped to ease the transition back into studying and the education environment.

“Returning to my studies was always in the back of my mind, but I had some questions I had to work through before I could commit to being a teacher," she said.

“I decided to begin with a Certificate III in Education Support to work as a teacher aide. This allowed me to ask questions and learn from teachers who were already doing the job.

“I made many good friends in the industry who saw my passion for helping and teaching kids.

“Once I had worked through the questions that were holding me back, I had no more excuses, and they encouraged me to enrol in the Bachelor of Education.”

She said CQU helped make the change from VET to higher education seamless, offering her the support and guidance she needed to succeed.

“There were several years between my VET course and Bachelor course, so I wasn’t sure what to expect in regards to the amount of time and work that was required," Sheena said.

“I was juggling studying, working full time and being a mum, so it was definitely a challenge, but my lecturers always made sure I had what I needed to learn and were available to answer the plethora of questions I had.

“Sometimes I felt there was not enough time in the day to get everything done. I used the term and weekly planners to schedule my time and ensure I could have some balance in my life.”

Sheena also received additional support through her studies from a CQUniCares Student Support Scholarship and Australian Literacy Educators Association (ALEA) Mackay Prize, which she acknowledged provided significant financial assistance.

As the Mackay region student who achieved the best result (highest GPA) in the unit: EDCU12043 English - Teaching Language Use in Context, Sheena received two years of complementary ALEA membership and a literacy resources pack.

“I was not in a very good financial position at the start of my studies. The scholarship helped me to purchase textbooks that I otherwise would not have had the funds to buy.

“One of my highlights was receiving my award from ALEA. It was amazing to have the effort I had put in acknowledged by the university,” she said.

Now a qualified teacher, Sheena said she was grateful to be offered a position at a local primary school before she had even graduated.

“During my final placement, I was encouraged by the school to apply for a position, as the staff and admin were impressed with my work ethic and abilities," Sheena said.

“I started teaching a Year 3/4 composite class at the beginning of the year, and I love it!

“When I was at school, I had some very passionate and caring teachers who always made me feel like school was a safe space, and now I get to do that for other children.”