Upskilling for new career

Angie Sadler
  • Early Childhood Relief Teacher

Already working as a relief teacher at her local early childhood education (ECE) centre, Angie Sadler wanted to gain a better understanding of the work she was doing, so she completed the New Zealand Diploma in Early Childhood Education and Care (Level 5) with Open Polytechnic.

Angie is originally from the Philippines where she gained a Bachelor of Science (Biology) and worked as a high school teacher in science. Switching to teaching in the early childhood education field when she moved to New Zealand, Angie soon realised she needed to upskill to better understand the New Zealand curriculum.

Angie says, “Doing early childhood education is totally different for me. I wanted to find out how and why things happen in the centre and get to know the nature of the job and the curriculum.”

At the time, Angie’s husband was very unwell, so she needed to be available to care for him while also work as a relief teacher so she could support them.  The diploma is taught by blended learning, mixing online study with face-to-face experiences such as workshops, noho Marae and practicums.  Angie knew that blended learning was the best option to enable her to pursue her passion while staying on top of her other commitments. 

Getting a bird’s eye view

Angie decided to do the New Zealand Diploma in Early Childhood Education and Care (Level 5) as a way to upskill and gain a better understanding of ECE work as a whole.

She says, “The diploma gives you a bird's eye view of what the whole programme was like, whereas the degree is more of an in-depth focus. I wanted to get a bird's eye view, the basics of all the subjects and the curriculum and to get a real feel of ECE. It all starts in the diploma study.”

“Getting the diploma gives you that edge, it proves to a future employer that you are capable.”

Learning in and out of the centre

The New Zealand Diploma in Early Childhood Education and Care (Level 5) mixes theory with practice, asking learners to gain practical experience in ECE centres to observe the children and apply the theory of what she’s learnt accordingly.

“It’s great, you can see the principles in action because you get to work with children, you get to be with the teachers, you get to be in the centre, to provide an in-depth write up and analysis for your assignments.”

Having worked as a relief teacher before studying, Angie began reflecting on her practices. She explains, “When I started studying, it made me more of a reflective educator because you have this knowledge now and it makes you think how you are going to implement it now in your current practice as opposed to what you did before.”

As an independent learner, Angie likes to read and discover things on her own. She says, “Online learning worked really well for me. I was given the freedom to ask questions when I needed to.”

Noho marae experience

As part of the diploma programme at Open Polytechnic, learners participate in a noho marae experience, to learn about Māori culture first-hand at a marae.

Angie says, “I especially loved the Noho Marae experience, especially as a foreigner and as an immigrant in New Zealand I enjoyed immersing in Māori culture. It was great learning about the Treaty of Waitangi and about my responsibilities of working in childcare and as a future teacher.”

“The noho marae made me think about how I can uphold my responsibilities to promote the language and the culture. I got to learn how to respect rights of the Māori people and to treat the language and the treasure of the culture.”

A difficult period

Angie’s life changed dramatically during her time studying. She explains, “During the course of my studies my husband passed away. It's a very private thing to say but it happened and it was very hard for me.”

“So I stopped studying and working and took some time off. But after three months I asked myself what am I going to do? I just thought finishing the diploma was what we wanted to do. So I decided to go back and re-enrolled. And then things just happened, I finished the first course and then re-enrolled in the second course, until I finished the whole diploma.”

“It was a challenge but then again you have to think of your priorities,” she says.

Getting support

Angie quickly learned that studying by distance doesn’t mean you have to do everything alone. She says, “The support I received from Open Polytechnic was the best support that I've ever had. The academic staff were very understanding; the regional lecturer got to know me very well, they were able to address my concerns and my problems. The regional lecturers really give you their time and they listen and try to address your questions.”


Graduating with her diploma in 2019, Angie says, “It was a real privilege to be a part of the ceremony and meeting other graduates as well. It was a happy, beautiful and at the same time a bittersweet day for me. It feels surreal to be graduated and it gave me a great sense of achievement.”

“I think it's really important to take time and reflect and celebrate how far you've come with study,” she says.

Angie’s future goals

Currently happy with what she’s learnt in the diploma, Angie’s future is focused on part-time relief teaching. She says, “At some stage I do want to go full-time to apply the principles in action and see how everything works out in a permanent role.”

“In terms of further education, you never know. I might think of upskilling more to do the bachelor or even the graduate diploma, but for the time being I’m happy with the diploma and seeing what it's like and testing the waters with what I've learnt.”

Starting small

Angie says, “If studying is something you’re thinking about, I think it's good to just start. If you analyse the whole qualification, it might seem like a big challenge but it’s about starting small.”

“You start small and you see how it goes, build up your skills by looking at one course at a time. If you pass, do the next course, and so on. Before you know it, you've completed. It's really up to you whether you study full time or whether you take it slowly. You decide what you feel like doing and you don't have to rush things. I truly believe if it's really meant to happen it will all fall into place,” she says.

I wanted to find out how and why things happen in the centre and get to know the nature of the job and the curriculum.