It is always incredibly inspiring to be reminded that pursuing what makes you happy is a viable career option.
UNE alumna and current Learning Advisor Elizabeth Hayes has always followed her heart and built her career around what she wants to do. As she succinctly puts it: “I do what I do because I enjoy it and because I believe in it. There is no real goal – except to enjoy the ride. When I stop enjoying it, I’ll start doing something else.”
Elizabeth’s career and study journey, which led her to UNE where she completed a Diploma of Education, is a perfect example of following one’s dreams.
Originally from Orange, Elizabeth went to Wollongong University to pursue a degree in Creative Arts and Writing, which was followed by a Master of Arts at the University of Sydney. Her initial studies led her into an office job, but her heart was drawing her in another direction. So in 2006 she looked for universities that offered a Diploma of Education via distance education. This led Elizabeth to UNE where she studied remotely – eagerly awaiting study packs in the mail, which contained readings and resources for distance learning.
Around the time that she completed her studies at UNE, Elizabeth moved to Forster, on the mid-north coast of NSW, where she began her journey as a teacher at Taree High. Elizabeth described this time as an educator as an incredibly important step in her own learning:
“I still look back on those years as the best in my career – I learned so much and it was so rewarding, even if it was very difficult being a new teaching graduate. After that, I moved to Newcastle, where I enrolled at the University of Newcastle (UoN) to do a PhD. Since completing that, I’ve been working as a Learning Advisor at UoN. I work predominantly in the School of Education, helping pre-service teachers develop the academic skills they need to succeed in their studies, and in their professions.”
With a wealth of experience and an ever-growing expertise in education, Elizabeth’s role as a Learning Advisor enables her to help students develop their academic literacy. However, as part of this role she has also presented at major conferences held by organisations including the Association for Academic Language and Learning (AALL) and Student Transition Access Retention and Success.
“I think those events really solidify what it means to be an AALL practitioner,” said Elizabeth. “Which is so important given how misunderstood our roles are sector wide. So many people think Learning Advisors only work with students requiring remedial support. While that is one part of our role, much of what we do is about helping all students really excel. It’s a really diverse job that requires me to have ongoing engagement across the tertiary sector.”
Education has been an important aspect of Elizabeth’s life, even before her study and career pivoted in that direction. Growing up with parents who were teachers she knew the value of learning at a young age, but it wasn’t until she became a teacher herself that she truly understood the benefits of education. Elizabeth perfectly illustrates the power behind teaching with a recollection:
“I have a vivid memory of a young man I taught at Taree contacting me after he graduated to tell me he got the marks to do ‘anything’ but decided to become a teacher – because his teachers at Taree made him realise how special a job it was. And being able to make a difference to a kid like that is what makes teaching meaningful; as does seeing my students at university graduate and go on to get great teaching jobs afterwards. Good teachers need more recognition because good teaching truly does change lives.”
Having such an inspiring journey through education, one might wonder what Elizabeth considers her greatest achievements. Despite having four degrees hanging on her wall, Elizabeth described her day-to-day work as her proud accomplishment: “Nothing means more to me than getting an email from a student telling me they passed their assessment, course or degree because of the help I gave them. But as I always tell them, I didn’t give you the knowledge you needed to pass – I simply facilitated the knowledge you had yourself.”
So great is Elizabeth’s drive to help students it extends beyond her role as a Learning Advisor. Since 2016 Elizabeth has been helping students prepare for the government implemented LANTITE test. “Frankly, LANTITE is not a system I agree with,” explained Elizabeth. “However, this is the system we have to work with and only recently did I realise I can draw on my expertise to help students get through the Literacy component of LANTITE. I have so much expertise to offer, so I’ve recently started a business, Literacy 4 LANTITE. It’s very much in its infancy by my goal is to help students prepare for this exam in by attending online workshops that are far more affordable than most, and are also practical and run by someone with extensive experience as a teacher and learning advisor.”
Elizabeth has carved her own path through the education landscape in a truly inspirational fashion which has given her some excellent experiences and wisdom to share. When asked what advice she would offer to students, quite naturally she encourages them to follow their hearts:
“If you really want to do it, you can make it happen. It’s funny, when I started my job as a learning advisor, I would say to people that I’ve never felt so unproductive, or never slowed down as much. It’s not that I don’t work hard now – but that all that super hard work that got me here took a lot of effort! But it was so worth it – because now I have a great job in a great environment and I get to work with students who remind me of me every day!”