Faculty of Applied Health & Community Studies
Degree: Early Childhood Education – Intensive
Year of graduation: 2005
Alexis Bruyns was once responsible for protecting the assets inside southern Ontario’s casinos. Today, she equips future early childhood educators with skills to protect the province’s children. The trip from casino security officer to professor in Sheridan’s Early Childhood Education program was long, but it allowed Bruyns to realize a dream of teaching and working with children, a goal she’d held since she was a child helping her grandmother at her preschool in Mississauga.
“I’ve always known something was in me to work with children. I just felt like it was something I wanted to do,” she says, adding that the time is right to be an ECE in this province. New opportunities to teach in kindergarten classrooms and the government of Ontario’s 2007 decision to regulate the sector – all ECEs must now be registered with the provincial College of Early Childhood Educators – have given the profession more respect amongst the public.
“When I started I was making $9.50 an hour and the quality of (my work) wasn’t really measured,” she explains. “Now we have a College of Early Childhood Educators and (people) aren’t saying ‘oh, you babysit kids’ anymore. It’s an excellent time to be in the field and be an advocate for quality care.”
Bruyns first graduated from Sheridan’s Law and Security Administration program in 1996 and began working as a security officer for the Ontario Lottery Gaming Corporation. As a surveillance officer there, she was responsible for monitoring security footage. “It was an amazing gig,” she recalls. “But the hours – you’re working 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. I had a child, so it was really hard to work that shift work.”
In search of a more predictable work-life balance, Bruyns took on a job selling fixtures like shelving and lighting to retail stores. But she still had an itch to work with kids. “I was making pretty good money in sales, but it was not really what I wanted to do,” she says. “I wasn’t enjoying it.”
In 2004, she returned to Sheridan to study in the one-year intensive Early Childhood Education program. She then went on to complete her bachelor’s and master’s degrees and worked with Halton Region, travelling to different childcare centres in the region to help staff and families working with children with various needs. Then in 2015, she took on a new role as a family literacy specialist with the Region of Peel, supporting recent immigrant families with young children, including Syrian refugees. She set up reading programs in schools, community centres, and libraries and trained volunteers who ran the daily programming. Last August, she landed her dream job as a professor at Sheridan, specializing in early childhood education with a background in special education, a job she calls the most rewarding of her career.
“I always tell my students that my journey started where they are. I can relate to student life and having to get textbooks, dealing with family and friends. It’s nice when a student sends me an email and says ‘you’ve inspired me to work with kids who have special needs.’”