Professional Development Day for St Nicholas Early Education’s educators

Over 120 educators from all the St Nicholas Early Education centres across the Hunter recently dedicated their Saturday to attend a St Nicholas Early Education professional development day.

St Nicholas Early Education’s General Operations Manager, Kerri Armstrong, was on hand to welcome staff to the conference.

“I honour you as the educators of St Nicholas [Early Education] and thank you for giving up your time today to come and be a part of this journey,” Kerri said in her opening remarks.

This year’s conference was led by Kirsty Liljegren, an Early Childhood Consultant who specialises in the Reggio Emilia-influenced approach to early education.

Kirsty spent the day unpacking the Reggio Emilia approach to early education with St Nicholas Early Education’s educators and shared information about this approach’s background and how educators can use its teachings in their daily programming.

“One of the underlying things that we’re focusing on today is how we see children,” Kirsty said of her training program. “How do we see [children’s] capabilities, how do we get to know the uniqueness in every child and how do we respond to that in our curriculum?”

These were all questions Kristy answered throughout the day.

Kirsty explained that Reggio Emilia-influenced educators understand that early education is “anything but linear, but is instead an open-ended spiral. Young children are not marched or hurried sequentially from one activity to the next - instead they are encouraged to repeat key experiences, observe and re-observe, consider and reconsider, represent and re-represent.”

Educators also took part in brainstorming activities designed to challenge their existing approach to early education. Each centre was also required to bring a provocation which is a deliberate and thoughtful experience made by an educator to extend children’s ideas and interests. Educators were encouraged to investigate each other’s provocations and comment on the intention and value of each setup.

The number of attendees at this year’s professional development day highlighted the growth of St Nicholas Early Education. There were 45 educators from two centres in attendance at the first professional development day in 2017 and there are now more than 120 working at six centres. The growth in the number of educators reflects how St Nicholas Early Education has grown to meet the needs of working families in more communities across the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

Chief Executive Officer of the Diocese and Director of St Nicholas Early Education, Sean Scanlon, attributes much of St Nick’s success to the ongoing professional development of its educators.

“Professional development days are really important for our educators to ensure that they have the latest understanding of educating children in our care,” he said. 

Brittney Miller, Co-Centre Director of St Nicholas Early Education Newcastle West, said the importance placed on professional development is one of the reasons she loves working for St Nick’s.

“Today we’re here to talk about Reggio Emilia-inspired teachings and learnings which is something I really value,” she said. “St Nicholas is all about promoting the children’s interests and emergent learning and today has really inspired me to promote that when I get back to St Nicholas Newcastle West.”

Corey, an educator at St Nicholas Early Education Lochinvar, also believes it is important to continuously hone his skills and knowledge as an educator.

“Doing professional development is a fantastic way to do that, to be continuously looking at ways to improve,” he said.

If you’re interested in a career with St Nicholas Early Education, you can view and apply for current job vacancies on our website.

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Alexander Foster

Alexander Foster is a Marketing and Communications Coordinator for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle