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Little minds yield big rewards

By Kristie Kellahan

A former banker now invests her time in early childhood teaching, writes Kristie Kellahan.

Today heralds the start of Children's Week, a national program of events recognising the talents, skills and rights of young children. Based on the principles expressed in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the week will feature a family fun day at Collingwood Children's Farm, along with more than 350 events on offer throughout Victoria.

The efforts of dedicated kindergarten teachers will be applauded, among them Helen Pretty. Pretty, who looks after a class of three-year-olds at Bilbungra Kindergarten in Keysborough, moved into teaching 10 years ago from a previous career in banking.

"My true passion lies with children and families," Pretty says. "As a mature student, I undertook an integration course and this led me to working in a primary school."

Pretty then gained her certificate III in children's services (the minimum requirement for staff to work with children). "Initially I was resistant, and felt that my experience as a parent and working with children was adequate," she says.

"How wrong could I be? Honestly, the best thing I did was to start this pathway." Pretty studied and worked at the same time, enrolling to undertake her diploma.

"This was inspirational, as I looked at the program, children, teachers and my own involvement in a totally new way," she says.

"I was fortunate enough this year to be given my own group of fantastic three-year-olds at Bilbungra preschool."

Young children can be surprisingly astute, as Pretty has found.

"One child explained to me that the rainbow was the result of the rain and the sun mixing together, while another identified a variety of plants in the garden," she says.

"Children should never be underestimated; they teach me every day and their curiosity and joy for the world is something to be encouraged and celebrated."

Children can also often be endearingly affectionate. "The mother of a child in my group this year told me her son thanked Jehovah for me in his prayers," Pretty says. "This is such a truly humbling, overwhelming thing to be told."

Pretty says she has faced challenges this year as a result of taking on her own group of children. "Most of the children in the group haven't left their families before, which, understandably, can be very stressful," she says. "The area is very multicultural and some children have had very little exposure to English.

"I perceive these challenges as a positive, an opportunity to try different strategies and look at each child as an individual."

Armed with a true passion for early childhood education, Pretty has signed up to go back to university next year to study for a bachelor's degree. She says she is excited to be expanding her education and skills in this way. 


Published: 20 October 2012

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