Jacky Cheng has had a colourful career as an architect, artist and now a history and visual arts lecturer in idyllic Broome, Western Australia.
˜I came to Broome for a holiday in 2006 and fell in love with the place, so resigned from my Sydney job and returned," says Jacky who has a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of New South Wales.
Once settled, Jacky entered the world of vocational education and training (VET), first as a student gaining a Certificate IV in Visual Arts, and then as a teacher/trainer.
"I adored university, but as an architect I learned I was stronger on theory than on technical skills," says Jacky. "I became passionate about VET's practical approach."
In Broome, Jacky was employed by Kimberley TAFE and then as an Official Arts Lecturer at North Regional TAFE (Certificate I to Certificate IV in Visual Arts and Certificate III in Arts Administration). Her students study painting, drawing, print making and textiles, including the business side so they can practice sustainably.
"VET is about teaching skills relevant to industry today," she says. "It's fantastic because without the necessary skills, you'll be left behind."
In Jacky's case, students learn from an award-winning practicing contemporary artist.
"As a lecturer, I must still learn to stay on top," says Jacky. "It's exciting to also learn from my students who are the future."
Throughout her time in Broome Jacky has travelled to remote locations, interacting with students from diverse age groups and socio-economic backgrounds. She has worked with youth-at-risk, adults wanting new skills and professionals keen on branching into new areas.
In 2013, Jacky won VET Teacher/Trainer of the Year for Western Australia and that same year won VET Teacher/Trainer of the Year at the Australian Training Awards.
She talks of many success stories, including a student who started studying in her early 50s after the death of her husband.
The woman cared full-time for her son who had a mental disability. "She felt the pressure and almost didn't stick to it," says Jacky.
"Having graduated, she moved to Queensland, has won awards and is taking her art practice to new heights.
As an Australian VET Alumni member, Jacky is energised by the inspiring network, particularly since she's relatively isolated in Broome.
"I feel connected and thrive on the news I receive through other alumni members," says Jacky.