Cambell McKenzie

The path less travelled
By Lauren Roden
Not everyone follows the same path to reach their goals. Life can take us in unexpected directions, but sometimes it’s those detours that lead to the best opportunities and experiences.
This is Cambell McKenzie’s story. Cambell, 24, dreamed of becoming a primary school teacher after doing year 10 work experience at the same school he went to growing up in Buronga, NSW.
But when year 12 exams rolled around, Cambell didn’t achieve the ATAR score he needed to get into university to study education. So he went a different way.
Cambell enrolled in a Diploma of Children’s Services at SuniTAFE, and it turned out to be the best decision he could have made. Not only did it help him get into a Bachelor of Education at La Trobe University, the course armed him with a bank of skills he could use during his university studies.
“TAFE was a great way to transition from school to university,” Cambell said. “I felt more prepared stepping into uni because I’d gone to TAFE.”
Cambell, who is now in the fourth and final year of his degree, said he might have struggled if he had gone straight into a university course. “Uni always seems like this big ending to your education, and it can be daunting,” he said.
“TAFE is more like school, but your learning is focused on where you want to go in life. In year 12 I wasn’t very organised, but at TAFE I built up my organisation and time management skills, and I was more dedicated because it was where I wanted to be.”
Cambell’s time at SuniTAFE, and a placement at TAFE Kids, also exposed him to early childhood education – an area he had never considered working in. “The experience really benefitted what I’m doing now,” he said.
“I feel like I’ve got two years’ more education than everyone else in the course. I’ve been able to see the really early stages of children’s development, which has helped a lot with being able to talk to the younger ones in prep and year 1 – you have to get down to their level and change the way you speak to communicate information.”
Cambell can’t wait to start his teaching career when he finishes his course in November, and begin making a real difference in his students’ lives. He is a strong advocate for anti-bullying.
“I was bullied at school – a lot of people are – and seeing kids upset because of bullying is something that I’ve always hated. I want to try and stop that in the classroom and playground because I want kids to feel safe and be happy. They shouldn’t have to worry about going to school.” Cambell said he was also passionate about setting children up for their futures and helping them grow into unique individuals. “By role modelling what a good person is, I hope they can apply that to their own lives,” he said.
“You see the kids from 9am to 3pm every day, so you play a big part in their lives. If I can help them in some way early on, hopefully what I teach them now will help them later on.”
Cambell’s path to education might have been different than most, but when you have a dream, you have to follow it – no matter where it leads. And there’s no doubt he was born to be a teacher.
“I’m a bit childlike myself, so I feel like I can really connect with them,” he said. “To have a child come up to you and tell you what they’ve learnt, and to know you’ve taught them something, that’s the best reward.”