ST. JOHN’S, NL –
Ocean Whelan believes she has found her calling, and plans to pursue it for the rest of her career.
Whelan, an Early Childhood Education (ECE) graduate, was recently named the first recipient of the Joanne Juteau Early Childhood Education Scholarship award by the Association of Early Childhood Educators of Newfoundland and Labrador (AECENL). It’s an achievement that was recognized in the province’s House of Assembly.
Whelan says she was listening live when her name was mentioned by Education Minister Tom Osborne. There, he congratulated the winner and spoke about the award.
“Joanne Juteau, the namesake for the award, was known for her contributions to the Early Learning and Child Care Sector, inspiring and providing support to many Early Childhood Educators within the field. Ms. Juteau spent time as a childcare centre administrator, an ECE instructor, and most recently with the Department of Education as regional manager ... I would like to thank AECENL for this fitting tribute to her legacy.”
Whelan says hearing his statement was really “overwhelming, but it was also heartwarming” to be validated in such a public and kind way.
“To gain so much recognition for my hard work by people in power; I was really proud of myself and grateful.”
The award comes with a $500 scholarship and was given to her based on her 4.0 grade point average, volunteer work, leadership skills and community involvement.
Born and raised in St. John’s, NL, Whelan is a wife and mother of a two-year-old son, whom she calls her greatest inspiration.
“My son is a ray of light. he is outgoing, happy, and smart little guy, and he is my greatest motivation in all aspects of life,” she said.
Whelan’s husband is Palestinian-Canadian and together they dedicate their free time to helping others.
“We do a lot of online and in-person advocacy for immigration, anti-racism and mental health,” she said. “We also love hosting events, having people over and sharing his cultural food with friends and family.”
Despite her success, Whelan says it hasn’t always been an easy road for her. She left home at an early age and had to learn to take care of herself. She also struggled with switching from in-person to online learning during the pandemic, but she credits her success to a good support system.
“There is always a light,” she recalled. “I met some of my closest friends, made some of my best memories, met some inspiring instructors and learned so much about myself. College taught me so much more than the skills I need for my field of work, it really helped me become a stronger person.”
Currently working in regulated childcare, Whelan plans to further her education and obtain an ECE degree.
“I have been described as a passionate individual,” she said. “Someone who is resilient and empathetic, but also determined and hard-working, and I don't let anything stop me from achieving what I want and I am unafraid to do the work needed to obtain it.”
When it comes to her long-term goals, Whelan plans to be in ECE for the rest of her career.
“I dream of serving young children in all walks of life, for the rest of my life,” she said. “I am specifically passionate about working with children from challenging backgrounds, who have challenging behaviours or diverse needs.”
Melanie Collett, an ECE instructor at CNA, says she is impressed with Whelan and what she has been able to accomplish.
“Such a very special award honouring an individual so committed to the field of ECE,” said Collett. “Her ability to maintain a 4.0 grade point while balancing life’s responsibilities and college through a pandemic, is truly commendable.”
Lori Chaulk, manager of ECE programs at CNA who also serves as an AECENL executive and board member, says she too was excited to hear that one of the college’s students was selected.
For more information about Early Childhood Education and other programs, visit www.cna.nl.ca
College of the North Atlantic