Having spent the last eight years at TAFE Queensland training hundreds of early childhood educators, Joanne Mountford has made a huge impact on the industry and subsequently the Sunshine Coast community as a whole.
But while Joanne's passion for education is unmistakeable, her career started out on a very different path.
“I’m actually a fully qualified hairdresser,” Joanne said.
“I started out in visual art but switched my university studies for work and went into hairdressing. But that path just wasn’t fulfilling for me, so I decided to go into early childhood, which I love," she said.
“I like to say that I went from shaping people on the outside to shaping people from the inside. It’s amazing to play such a significant part in the growth and development of children.”
Joanne studied throughout her career and after volunteering for TAFE, she discovered her calling in training. Her passion for learning has continued throughout her 20 years in the early childhood industry, with her most recent accomplishment obtaining her Masters of Education.
“Throughout my journey I discovered that I really love education and learning, and supporting others to learn and grow to achieve whatever it is they want to do,” she said.
In a demonstration of her commitment to furthering the knowledge of both herself and her students, Joanne recently swapped her classroom at TAFE Queensland’s Mooloolaba campus for a first-hand experience of the world’s early childhood education capital Reggio Emilia, leading a group of 10 students from campuses around the state on a 15-day study trip in Italy.
Joanne was selected to accompany students from the Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care on an international trip to Italy, where they met with experts at the Loris Malaguzzi International Centre and learned about the globally-renowned Reggio Emilia Approach.
The trip, which was part of TAFE Queensland’s Study Abroad program, also allowed students to explore several cities in Italy, including Florence, Bologna, Venice and Milan.
Joanne said the trip was her first time in Italy and while she had been excited to sightsee, the opportunity to learn highly sought-after philosophies that she can pass on to her students in the very region they were developed was a dream come true.
“Having the opportunity to experience the culture – and of course, the food – was incredible, but this trip was so much more than that,” Joanne said.
“The Reggio Emilia Approach is hugely significant to early childhood practice in Australia, and we got to experience the amazing Loris Malaguzzi International Centre in the town where it all originated and to learn about their history and philosophy first-hand, as well as see the spaces they use,” she said.
“This trip really has been life changing for these students; not only has it given them the chance to explore a different part of the world, it’s given them valuable knowledge that they can now use to educate children in their careers.”
Joanne said the trip has already attracted the attention of services looking to take on participating students in order to learn from their experience, with one student gaining employment as a result of her involvement before the group even left for Italy.
“Seeing students have the opportunity to learn and grow, and being able to be a part of that by leading them on this trip, was a real privilege for me,” Joanne said.
“I feel like we have a significant role to play in early childhood because the people that we train, we send out into industry. If we can support them to be the best that they can be, then we’re making the industry better, which in turn means it’s better for our children and our communities.”