Jenna LeBlanc knew from a young age that she wanted to grow up to become a teacher.
But becoming a teacher in Nova Scotia seemed impossible – there were no job openings and her own high school teachers were discouraging of the profession.
Jenna then spent a year working in an after-school program and confirmed her love for working with young children. It was a friend of hers who works in the field who finally convinced her to become an Early Childhood Educator and recommended the Nova Scotia College of Early Childhood Education (NSCECE).
The program is a two-year diploma that Jenna says is "jam-packed with work experience during each semester. In the first year, you learn about child growth and development and how to play again. The second year is more about children with diverse needs and how to support them in your classroom."
NSCECE provides their students with a resource centre filled with books and activities for young children and teachers to use, as well as professional development courses in the spring and in the winter. Students need 30 hours of professional development over three years to stay certified in Early Childhood Education.
"I feel like this program requires a certain level of maturity; the program is a lot of work," Jenna says about the working conditions. Successful students who become ECE workers need to know that they spend two hours in very small spaces, and need to be caring for the children the entire time.
The difficulty of the program prepares students for the future, Jenna says.
"It was a struggle to stay on top of all of the projects, the papers and to work at the same time. I did eventually quit my job to focus on my schooling," she says.
Jenna's devotion to her studies was worth the effort. It was the first time since high school where she received high marks in all of her classes, because she loved what she was learning.
"Being in the child care field is hard, but every day I go to work and the children and families I work with are so loving and kind it makes all the hard days worth it."
There is a shortage of ECE workers in Nova Scotia and most centres are looking for people to join their team.
When Jenna graduated in May of 2018, she was offered multiple jobs, and she can't wait to see what the future holds for her.
"I am learning and growing as an ECE every day. In the future I would like to either be working with children who have special needs or become the director of a centre."