Meet Sandy Nickson
Returning to study at after a 20 year hiatus has been a life changing event for Sandy. With the support of her teachers and flexible delivery options, Sandy managed to juggle family life, work and study. Sandy was named Bendigo TAFE Student of the Year 2011 and Bendigo TAFE Student of the Year Vocational Category. Read about Sandy’s journey to success.
Sandy Nickson is a prime example of the importance of a second chance.
The Bendigo TAFE Student of the Year returned to study 20 years after she left school and graduated with distinction in early childhood education and care.
What made her decide to take on study with two boys at school and a tough time behind her was the help she herself received from teachers – and she wanted to help herself.
Sandy tells the story simply and powerfully.
When her eldest son, Jack, was seven, he went so close to drowning his survival was a matter of seconds. The family was at a public pool on a hot summer’s day, and in a split second, as Sandy turned to remind her toddler Brandon not to run on the slippery concrete, Jack got a stray kick in the head from another swimming child and went under.
“Someone lifted this little body out and I didn’t even realise it was him, until I recognised his swimmers,” Sandy said.
“I don’t remember much about what happened then, but I do remember hearing this piercing scream – it was me.”
Two nurses worked on Jack, almost beyond hope, with Sandy saying, “keep going, just keep going”, until finally, he kicked out and shouted. Later, he told his mum he came to thinking he was still under water. The huge relief came with huge consequences. Sandy’s guilt and grief gradually, insidiously, overwhelmed her. She stopped eating, eventually dropping to 40 kilograms. And what helped get her through a time when she almost gave up were the kinder teachers where her youngest son was enrolled.
“The kinder teachers were amazing,” she said.
“I really did see the importance of those teachers, not just for the child but for the whole family. I decided that was what I wanted to do.”
Sandy started first a certificate course, to ease herself back into study, then, with the encouragement of the Bendigo TAFE staff, took on the diploma course.
“They were so helpful, telling me they thought I had what it takes, and making it possible for me to juggle looking after the kids, with work, and study.
“I am an advocate for mature age study now having achieved at a high level while working and raising my boys. The blend of on and off the job training worked well for me and I found Bendigo TAFE to be flexible and supportive. The teachers were able to identify different learning skills and styles and catered for the individual.”
Sandy will wait for her two boys, now 14 and 10, to get a little further through school before taking on more study in childcare.
“It has given me the confidence to know, it’s what I want to do.”
Pictured: Sandy Nickson with Bendigo TAFE chief executive officer Maria Simpson at this year’s student graduation.
This article featured in the Bendigo Weekly. Journalist Rosemary Sorenson has kindly given permission for us to reproduce this story.