Five Nominees For Teacher of the Year Are From This One Preschool

Here at Educa, we love being able to celebrate the achievements of early childhood educators. We’re bringing you this ‘inspiring’ tale to end a fabulous year.

“chief hand holder, obstacle course navigator, conflict mediator, nappy changer, toilet trainer, scientist, rugby coach, sandpit manager, nose wiper, building apprentice, paramedic, insect catcher, listener, choir leader, dance instructor, artist, cleaner, Lego extraordinaire, story teller, photographer, excursion planner, baker, tear drier, cuddle giver (often to parents in their times of need also!)”

— Amelia Tamarapa

It’s no secret that preschool teachers do it all. Just look at their job description!

Amelia Tamarapa wrote this impressive description in her nomination for teacher Susan Hildred, of Hokowhitu Kindergarten in Palmerston North, New Zealand. It’s little wonder then that Susan was a prize winner in the 2016 New Zealand’s Most Inspiring Teachers* competition. The list above was Amelia’s way of demonstrating that “kindergarten teachers are more than just teachers on so many levels. They are an extra rock in the foundation of our children’s lives, ready to do whatever it takes to love their students as if they were their own.”

Five of 49 Nationwide

Currently, in its sixth year, 1369 New Zealand teachers were nominated as Most Inspiring Teachers in 2016. There were three rounds – first nominations, then public voting before the final decision was made by a panel of judges.

Five of the 49 teachers who made it through to the final judging round in the early childhood section were from Hokowhitu Kindergarten – one of the 23 kindergartens run by the Ruahine Kindergarten Association.

From left to right: Jill A Ellis (Head Teacher), Clare Ekins (Administrator) Susan Hildred (Teacher), Gina Livingstone (Teacher), Annie Harvey (Teacher), Wilma Aldridge (Teacher), Heather Gibson (Teachers Aide)  From left to right: Jill A Ellis (Head Teacher), Clare Ekins (Administrator) Susan Hildred (Teacher), Gina Livingstone (Teacher), Annie Harvey (Teacher), Wilma Aldridge (Teacher), Heather Gibson (Teachers Aide)

Nominated teachers had to demonstrate enthusiasm, creativity, dedication and drive, and ALL five teachers at Palmerston North’s Hokowhitu Kindergarten possess those qualities and more, according to parents and the local community.

Strong Teacher Parent Connection

The connection between parents and teachers at Hokowhitu is a strong one. As Head Teacher, Jill Ellis, explains “teachers have built strong relationships with children, parents, and whānau in our community.” The winning nomination by Amelia, whose daughter attends Hokowhitu Kindergarten, communicated the feelings of many families.“…Susan is hugely appreciated by all of the families who have had the absolute privilege of educating their children through Hokowhitu Kindergarten”.

That all the teachers were nominated speaks volumes about the respect families have for all the staff at Hokowhitu.

That appreciation is mutual according to Jill.

“Hokowhitu Kindergarten have an awesome community and an enthusiastic committee of parents. The committee organises fun social events that are inclusive for everyone in our diverse community.” Hokowhitu staff use their Educa dashboard to “tell our parents and whānau about weekly interests in the curriculum, events, and special occasions”. Educators at Hokowhitu use Educa to strengthen relationships with families and the bond that families feel is evident in their engagement with the teachers.

Helping the Transition From Home

All the staff at Hokowhitu value the rewards of helping children transition from home into early childhood education. The entire team works together to ensure children have quality learning experiences and feel a sense of belonging at the kindergarten. As Susan observes

“It’s about being there to support them, so they are comfortable and feel they belong.”

Parents like Amelia see this as an invaluable skill. “Susan always creates a special bond with many of the more shy children, who may take a little longer to settle into the kindergarten environment.”

Image: Murray Wilson/ Fairfax NZ Image: Murray Wilson/ Fairfax NZ

In a recent interview about being an inspiring teacher, Susan talked about her love for her job and the children she teaches. “Apart from being a big kid myself, I like having that real closeness with families and children and to share in their learning journey.”

Using Educa

It’s easy for teachers to share the children’s learning stories with families at Hokowhitu because every child on the roll has an Educa portfolio.

This creates visibility around learning and strengthens connections with family members at home and around the world in real time. As Jill explains “this has enabled overseas grandparents to see what their grandchildren are learning at kindergarten.” In her words, sharing stories via Educa is “a wonderful way to bring families together”.

Most Inspiring Teacher Competition

Respecting connections between families, communities, and teachers is what the NZ’s Most Inspiring Teacher Competition is all about. Warehouse Stationery (as the major sponsor of the competition) values teachers and wants their hard work recognised. Talking to the Education Review, CEO Pejman Okhovat said the “huge number of entries received show how much we do notice and respect the work teachers put into educating children, and that people value the chance to say thank you for all that energy and time.”

The Educa team want to end the year by celebrating not only the amazing teachers at Hokowhitu, but all the inspiring early childhood education teachers we work with. Thank you, we think you guys rock!

We’d love you to share this story with your networks. 

*The overall competition winner was Claire Shackleton of Glenbrook Kindergarten in Auckland.

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