Emerging Educator

Alanna Kole – Farrar Early Learning Centre

Alanna has demonstrated a strong commitment to ensuring children have access to more creative play, problem solving skills and access to more natural resources through her introduction of the Loose Parts program and by reducing plastics and single-purpose toys at the centre.

She has effectively managed the communication, leadership and advocacy around these and other initiatives, demonstrating excellent contribution to leadership and innovation. Alanna is committed to spontaneous and reflective practice, applying her studies in professional learning and learning with colleagues.

She has contributed to the development of safer and more secure environments, responsive planning and stimulating learning experiences.

Hazel Turland – Ngukurr School Council Childcare

Hazel has shown outstanding commitment to her role in providing quality care in line with Early Years Learning Framework and National Quality Standard. In particular, she maintains a strong work ethic that is both reliable and flexible, which is much appreciated in remote locations.

Hazel has worked well above expectations and seamlessly incorporates what she has learned into her daily work, demonstrating a commitment to hands on intentional teaching when observed in their own environment.

She is inclusive and encouraging of her early childhood colleagues to improve their interaction with children of all age groups and improve their documentation and standard of programming.

Monique Marzocchi – Clyde Fenton School

Monique demonstrates a strong commitment to building relationships across the early childhood sector, between families and among colleagues. She has an excellent understanding of activities that develop children’s fine and gross motor skills, and ensures children develop age-appropriate social and behavioural skills by having them participate in whole school events.

Monique’s accomplishments include lifting her preschool’s quality rating from ‘working towards’ to ‘meeting’ the National Quality Standard and successfully implementing an emergent play-based learning program informed by children’s interests, strengths and needs.

In all her work, she demonstrates resilience, reflexivity and leadership skills that align with the Early Years Learning Framework and National Quality Standard.

Outstanding Leadership

Eve Virginia Hannan – YMCA Alice Springs

Eve has embraced the Early Years Learning Framework to guide how she approaches leadership with children, their families and the staff. She is respectful, calm and a strong leader.

She has created a Cultural Educator role for her organisation to assist the organisation in their journey towards reconciliation. Working closely with Charles Darwin University, she established a mentoring program between staff and students to improve the students’ practicum experience.

Joanne Vlassco – Malak Family Centre

Joanne’s leadership style is best described as hands-on, honest and collaborative. She is active member and leader in the community-based childcare sector, always offering her support to this network of 23 services.

She leads her team by encouraging ongoing external training and offering internal professional development. Joanne has successfully led the restructure of the service using innovative and efficient business practices, which enabled the service to undergo renovations using a majority of its own funds.

During a very difficult time at the centre, Joanne demonstrated outstanding leadership skills in supporting families and staff through the bereavement of a child and managing external stakeholders.

Rachelle Louise Balfour-Quinn – Little Joeys Early Learning Centre

Rachelle is a compassionate and understanding leader who continuously looks for opportunities to enhance and improve her service. She can often be found working on the floor and modelling interactions and behaviour management strategies to staff. She has a particular interest in sustainability and enjoys sourcing pre-loved resources for her service.

During her leadership tenure at the service, enrolment has grown from 16 to 38. This leader supports her staff through their studies and has managed to retain staff and grow their skills. Her leadership style is described as calm, mentoring and impactful.

Community Engagement

La Crèche on The Avenue

La Crèche on The Avenue is a large local child care service with approximately 150 children enrolled. It has a strong commitment to the community through its culture of involvement with local people, services, celebrations and charities. The service regularly invites local services to share their knowledge with the children and families. It’s this dedication to community engagement as embedded in its culture that ensures the service excels.

Life Education Northern Territory

Life Education NT provide a comprehensive health awareness program across the Northern Territory. Approximately 1 500 children at early learning centres and 17 000 children in schools including preschool children have attended its Healthy Harold educational program.

Life Education is committed to the provision of its program in urban, rural and remote settings; travelling to very remote communities to reach our most isolated children.

Darwin Family Day Care

With an emphasis on cultural sharing and connecting children to culture and community, Darwin Family Day Care’s Bush Program is truly unique. Through integrated and innovative solutions and dedicated staff, 68 educators and 23 Elders across eight clan groups offer hands-on, flexible and personalised lessons for up to 20 children at a time, with each participant featuring in a take-home book to share with their community.

Not only does the program connect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children with Elders and community, it strives to find commonality with other cultures and expose a diversity of participants to Australia’s first culture.

Outstanding Educator

Fiona Matchett – St Mary’s Community of Learners

Fiona is described by her colleagues as ‘inspirational’, ‘knowledgeable’ and ‘creative’. She has an instinct to turn the smallest things into something amazing, providing a stimulating learning environment for the children and her colleagues.

Fiona holds children in the highest esteem as competent and capable learners, catering for their individual needs to develop life-long learning. Her most distinctive attribute is her ability to create a two way learning environment with children and bring the family along with their child’s learning. She contributes to early childhood networks both locally and nationally.

Lana Howitt – Leanyer Primary School

The ever-positive Lana is a dedicated professional who is continuously seeking to grow in her own practice as an educator. She has exceptional organisational skills and programs based on children’s interests. Lana caters for individuals, documents and follows through referral processes where required.

She works well with her teams, always coming up with new ideas and reflecting on how things went.

Mary Jane Kwon – OSHC at St Mary’s Catholic Primary School

Mary Jane brings an amazing energy and commitment to building strong relationships with children and families at the centre. She is exceptionally inclusive, mentoring fellow staff and recognising opportunities for them to better support children, using a strategic approach to achieve outcomes together.

She is a reflective and adept educator who is dedicated to her own learning.

Outstanding Achievement in Innovative Practice

Leanyer Preschool

Following extensive consultation with children, families and the international community, Leanyer Preschool have created an inclusive program which listens to the ideas of children and incorporates tools for 21st century learning. Their innovative program includes engaging experiences for the children to promote problem solving, creativity and stimulate imagination, and has positively impacted student learning and parental engagement with the service.

Children at this service have become confident risk takers ready to experiment, reflect and communicate their learning with peers. Families too are experiencing the positive outcomes with a high level of engagement with the program, strong attendance at special events and offer program support by sourcing materials and resources.

This service is driving and facilitating a change in culture across the school and by actively engaging in reflective practice.

Smile-A-Mile Fun Bus and Toy Library Incorporated

This well-respected program is committed to providing a regular playgroup to rural and remote communities. This service delivers a program to families that includes thematic play experiences and opportunities, which families can then expand on at home.

Young children benefit from the regularity of the program, educators and familiar resources with each mobile, multi-age playgroup using a monthly central theme. Through this consistency, parents are able to observe the development of essential learning dispositions, such as resilience and engagement with heightened curiosity and meta-cognitive awareness, while children are able to consolidate their knowledge, add to skills they have mastered, and strengthen connections with each other and their community.

While this service acknowledges the importance of parent-child interactions in shaping a child’s learning and development, it also includes time for parents to relax and socialise with other parents whilst their children play alongside others. This program regularly reflects on its practice and uses the Early Years Learning Framework and National Quality Standard to enhance and evolve their program.

Farrar Early Learning Centre

The Farrar Early Learning Centre has been on a two-year continuous improvement journey to discover a theoretical platform to support their philosophy of child-centred practice, inclusivity, sustainability, cultural competence and strong partnerships. The Theory of Loose Parts is a philosophy based on the view that ‘loose parts’ in the environment foster creativity. Educators at Farrar were empowered by this theory to provide children with materials and play spaces that encourage their curiosity, investigation and wonder.

Consultation and collaboration with children and families to implement the Loose Parts theory as an innovation in practice, led to many quality improvement changes within the service. All plastic toys were donated to local charities and families, making way for the collection of open-ended natural resources.

Through changes made from the Loose Parts theory, educators have recognised that children spend more time engaged in imaginary play with each other and this has led to improvements in the development of language, social skills and confidence.

Furthermore, the use of technology has enabled parents to both receive regular updates on their child(ren)’s learning and provide feedback to the centre. For educators, this innovation resulted in the implementation of a whole service pedagogical approach and the development of a mindset promoting continuous improvement.