David Neale

Called to the classroom

Thursday, September 16, 2021
Brenton Stacey
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Brenton Stacey

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Brenton is Avondale University’s Public Relations and Philanthropy Officer. He brings to the role experience as a communicator in publishing, media relations, public relations, radio and television, mostly within the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South Pacific and its entities.

What David found at Avondale helped him overcome fear

It’s O-Week 2020 and David Neale is sitting in his car “freaking out.” He feels overwhelmed. Despite knowing he’s more than capable of completing a university degree, the question lingers: Has he left his run too late?

David is a role model for children. “I love the innocence and honesty that comes with kids.” Teaching them has been a lifelong dream that until this moment in the car never seemed likely to become reality. “Life got in the way.” The call to the classroom gnawed away, though, “and it got worse.”

I can’t quit now, David tells himself, my wife will kill me. He prays, calls a friend, then heads off to the first orientation session. “Trepidation consumed me,” David says, “but after only one day, those feelings had dissipated.”

Wife Eden, a primary teaching graduate of 2015, said he’d love everything about Avondale, “which I do.” The two live with their boys on the Central Coast, so Avondale isn’t the closest university. “But it’s Christian, and that’s been a blessing. I’m a people person. I don’t want to get lost in the crowd.” He mentions in particular the “close-knit community,” the “positive and friendly vibe,” and the lecturers—“not just their teaching prowess but the fact that they are decent, helpful and amazing people. I feel like a kid again—I want to put in extra effort because I like them.” It’s not a surprise to hear David say he’s enjoying study and doing well at it.

David and Eden met while working for a school in Terrigal for those on the autism spectrum. A teacher’s aide, he’s taken leave without pay to complete his undergraduate arts and primary teaching degree. “Financially, everything’s fine—we’ve managed.” Other work at Life Without Barriers has helped, too. “Perhaps it’s a sign I’m meant to be doing what I’m doing.”

As a mature age student—who celebrated his 39th birthday in July—David brings life experience and productivity skills such as time management to the classroom. “I lead a busy life, so I’ve got to be organised.” Younger classmates sometimes seek his advice.

What would David tell them about overcoming fear? “I can identify with the feeling—with the reservations, the reasons we come up with for not doing something. But life’s all about purpose and meaning. One leads to the other. So, find what you’re good at and have a go. If my experience is anything to go by, all will be well.”

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