Child care person in the spotlight:
Sharon Bernhardt
This week we are proud to introduce you to Sharon Bernhardt Director of the OAC Surry Hills Campus. Sharon was awarded OAC's 2016 Exceptional Performance/Contribution Award, in recognition of her commitment to OAC values and her dedication to continuously raising her professional performance and making a difference to the children and families in her service.

What is your name and which centre do you work in?

My name is Sharon Bernhardt and I am director of the OAC Surry Hills Campus. We have 31 team members and up to 120 children per day.

What is your professional background and career experience?

I initially came from a hospitality background as an events co-ordinator, making the decision to change industries nine years ago. I moved into the early years education industry as an unqualified educator with no experience or professional training not really knowing what to expect. I started off as a campus float working across all age groups, soon taking a shine to the nursery age while I completed my certificate three with Only About Children.

Over the years I have worked in the preschool and toddler age group, managing to also complete my diploma qualification.

After five years at the same campus, I progressed to a new campus taking on the role of nursery manager. I became the 2IC for the next 18 months. Recently I started as the director at OAC Surry Hills

What attracted you to a career in child care?

I have always grown up around family, minding younger cousins and family members, having a love for children and little ones from an early age. The initial change of industries for me was a tough decision, my love of learning and thirst for something new leading me to this industry. I was quick to develop a true passion for teaching, working and learning alongside the children in my care and the satisfaction of knowing that I could make a difference to their lives.

What does a 'normal' day look like for you?

A 'normal day' for me will always vary as no two days are ever the same. I believe in a balanced work life, dividing my time across the administrative/office requirements, the team as well as spending time with the children and families.

What makes your centre unique?

At OAC we embrace a holistic approach to early childhood education. We believe education, health and wellbeing are equally important when it comes to a child’s early learning and development.

At our campus we embed our specifically tailored OAC GROW curriculum into our teaching practices, we aim to develop security and a sense of belonging in each child implementing primary caregiving and maintaining small groups throughout the day. We are also supported by OAC's in house allied team of occupational therapists, speech and hearing and vision specialists.

Various programs are run across all age groups including music, drama, language, technology and active programs.

We have such a diverse team at Surry Hills, not only of cultural backgrounds but talents that the team bring forward and implement into their teaching practices.

What are some of the advantages of working in the child care sector?

Early years education is such a rewarding industry, being a part of a child's growth from a baby to a pre-schooler, then watching them graduate to school! The flexibility and diversity of opportunity within child care is endless based on qualification, there is such an array of sectors to choose from.

What are some of the biggest challenges facing the child care sector?

Making the shift from a generalised 'babysitting' service to an early years learning and development education sector

Shifting people's thought process through information and up to date progression. Since the minimum certificate three/studying towards requirement became mandatory, it has prompted more qualified staff, training and skill sets of child care workers. Striving to meet and maintain these higher standards has come at a cost facing the need for higher trained staff, resulting in a high turnover of staffing in general across the industry.

How has your centre changed to deal with these challenges?

We continuously strive to be the best, not only as a campus but as a company. Educators are consistently supported throughout their journey with OAC's recognition program including;
  • Comprehensive educational assistance with fully funded qualification programs including Certificate 3, Diploma and Bachelor levels
  • State of the art Educational Leadership programs facilitated by Semann and Slattery
  • Continuous training from subject matter experts on early childhood education and child development and wellness.
What advice would you offer someone thinking about a career or looking for a promotion in child care?

I would most definitely recommend a career in the early education sector. It is such a fun and rewarding career, each day coming with its challenges similar to any other job but at the end of the day I can truly walk away with a smile. Having a memorable teaching moment, seeing a baby take their first steps or hearing their first words, embraced with a cuddle from a toddler or watching a pre-schooler make true lasting friendships.

This is the essence of what early years learning is all about!!
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