Courage: the word that started it all

(~3 minute read.)

Sarah Louise and family.

Sarah Louise Gandolfo is a Melbourne based early childhood teacher, and mum of two, currently working towards a Master of Educational Leadership (Early Childhood) through Macquarie University. She is currently employed as an Associate at Semann & Slattery and is the 2020 ACEL New Voice in Early Childhood scholarship recipient. 

In her own words …

My word for 2020 was Courage. When I look back on 2020 and all that was thrown at me, I can’t help but beam with pride from the inside out. Brené Brown refers to Courage as a “heart word” and, goodness me, did I embrace that meaning. That single, two syllable word, defined me and every action I took over the course of a year. 

Each year I, like many others, make New Years Resolutions. And I, like many others, fail to stick with them beyond January. So, in 2020 I made a new commitment: a commitment to Courage. My objective was to weave the theme of Courage through every aspect of my life, including my work, family, education, and leisure. To give you some context, I am an early 30s mum of 2 in a committed long-term relationship. I am a volunteer animal foster carer, an early childhood professional of almost 20 years, and a master’s student. As my world literally locked down, thanks to Covid, I drew on the strength of Courage to ensure that all aspects of my life continued in the very upward trajectory that I had always strived for. 

My word for 2020 was Courage.

One of the most pivotal moments for me came with an invitation to join an incredible Sydney based team. I had told myself for years that if this company ever came knocking on my door that I would jump at the opportunity. Very fortunately for me that offer allowed me to remain in Melbourne, working across Victoria supporting early childhood teams in reaching higher levels of quality service provision. At the time of the offer I was managing a large, long day care centre in the Eastern suburbs of Melbourne. I had a team of almost 50 educators and was working very closely with a range of allied health services to support over 100 families. This was a position that I had been slowly working my way up to for almost 20 years, and now I had a decision to make. In the end, my heart won, and I took that leap of Courage, packed up my desk, said goodbye to the children and the team that I called family, and set up my home office ready for the next chapter. It was in this moment that I realized just how powerful that one word was going to be. 

Then Covid-19 took over. I was house bound, working at home but zooming in to be with teachers and early childhood professionals across the state. My 2-year-old could no longer attend childcare as I was not a permitted worker, my 6-year-old was thrown into the depths of learning remotely from home during her prep year, and my partner was home full time having lost his hours due to the hospitality sector taking such a massive hit. Did I mention that I was also back taking units at university, after a few semesters break? Every morning I drew on the strength of Courage to get me through the hours of zoom meetings, action planning and virtual coaching, all the while my kids played in the background. In the evenings I breathed in Courage as I sat down with my laptop and textbooks, pumping my way through readings and essays, despite the screen fatigue. Courage helped me maintain my relationships with my partner and children as it whispered to me when enough was enough, to put the laptop away and to play a game, watch a family movie, take a beautiful walk in nature, or bake yet another loaf of banana bread. 

At the end of 2020 I was proud, more so than I have ever been. I was, and still am, working in a job that I absolutely love alongside people who inspire me daily. I have picked up extra units at university, spurred on my academic success during a very difficult period. I’ve been successful in joining a local and a state committee to further give back to the sector that I have devoted my life to. My children are flourishing, rebuilding their social networks and connections as they rejoin the world. And my partner and I are focused on our future and all that the universe is presenting to us. Therefore, upon reflection, with a single word being the supposed key to my successes I start 2021 with a new word, Health, while drawing Courage in as a core value alongside Integrity and Kindness, as I navigate this crazy ride called life.  

Sarah Louise can be reached at or

Family 🙂

Sarah Louise and I started a “dialogue” on LinkedIn in October 2020 and subsequently, I asked her if she would like to write a blog for us. I am so glad she said yes! Her story is one which I know many will relate to and will be inspired by.

With gratitude,


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