Catherine Sansom - Explore & Develop in Lilyfield
Catherine Sansom - Explore & Develop in Lilyfield
Every month we profile an outstanding member of the early childhood workforce working hard to provide exceptional education and care to our children, this month we are proud to introduce Catherine Sansom from Explore & Develop in Lilyfield, NSW.
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What is your name and where do you work?
My name is Catherine Sansom, but most people, including the children, call me Cat, and I'm 35 years old. I am the Educational Leader at Explore & Develop Lilyfield, and at our service we have 56 children a day and 16 educators.
What is your professional background and career experience?
I have a Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood) from Western Sydney University (UWS) and have worked and taught in early childhood education for over fourteen years, mainly in Sydney but also in Auckland for a while. I've predominately taught preschool aged children over the years before becoming the Educational Leader 4 years ago, but I love teaching and working with all ages.
From the beginning of this year I've been involved in teacher research with some of the children, looking at the interconnectedness of environment and identity, which I am absolutely loving. It's a great reminder that we should always keep challenging ourselves and learning.
What attracted you to a career in early education and care?
Initially I thought that I would teach in primary schools (years K-2) after university, however the more time I spent learning about and teaching in early education and care services, the more I fell in love with hands-on, play-based curriculum. I could see the opportunities for really creative, holistic and progressive planning and teaching that wasn't always possible in the primary school structure.
I've also always been very passionate about advocating for the rights of very young children and their families. I think that early childhood education and care has changed a lot, even over the past ten years, but the importance of early learning is still not always understood by broader Australian society. I wanted to be a part of changing the conversation around what young children are capable of, and the importance of the work that happens in early learning services.
What does a 'normal' day look like for you?
I know it sounds cliché but there honestly isn't a normal day for me! I am lucky enough to have a full time Educational Leader role, so I often start the day by checking in with each of the classrooms and educators, seeing if they need anything, asking questions and/or passing on information.
I might spend then some time mentoring a colleague or pre-service teacher, supporting with curriculum planning etc. I also work with our Director Susan on things like the Quality Improvement Plan, planning meetings.
I let families know what's happening at our service, so I post about any upcoming events, interesting articles or information to support families and their children on our online portal, Kinderloop.
I sometimes also try to fit some time for my own teacher research work into my day as well.
What makes your service unique
One of things that I love most about our service is that we value inclusivity and children's rights. We work with other organisations such as KU and The Cerebral Palsy Alliance to support children with diverse strengths and needs. We are proudly part of ACON's Welcome Here program and strive to create an environment that is welcoming for all families and children.
One of the things that we have especially worked on over the past couple of years is making sure that our practices, resources and books support the representation of diversity and difference amongst people. We also work hard to incorporate Indigenous perspectives and learning into our curriculum and have been lucky enough to work with or visit organisations such as Narragunnawali, Tranby College and Boomali Aboriginal Artists Co-operative.
What are some of the advantages of working in the early childhood sector?
The relationships that we build with children, families, other educators and the community are one of the best advantages of early childhood education. We are truly always working as a team, with many people involved.
I find it also very rewarding to be part of a profession where you really feel like you're making a positive impact in the world.
What are some of the biggest challenges facing the sector?
Personally, I think one of the biggest challenges is that lack of understanding, especially by politicians, about what really happens in an early childhood education and care service. The complexity of the work that we do with children and families is undervalued.
How has your service changed to deal with these challenges?
As well as communicating with parents, we use social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram to share some of the work that we do with the community. It’s also great to show the capabilities of very young children, as people are still often quite surprised by how much young children actually know and can do.
How does the industry need to change to adapt to these challenges?
I think we (me included!) need to get better at advocating about the work that we do. We already know that a huge amount of brain development occurs in the first five years of a child's life, so these children need to have qualified and motivated educators to best support and teach them at this critical point in their lives and these educators in turn need to be supported and recognised.
By supporting educators to become comfortable communicating what it is they really do, and why it is so important we are more likely get this information across to communities.
What advice would you offer someone thinking about a career or looking for a promotion in early learning and care?
Go for it! It's such an interesting and rewarding career because you are constantly learning and growing professionally. It's not just about formal learning opportunities such as TAFE or university either, there are some amazing organisations and groups of like-minded early childhood educators out there to share ideas and knowledge with. Some of my favourites are the Social Justice in Early Childhood and the Early Childhood Environmental Education Network (ECEEN) groups on Facebook.
Never be put off from asking for help, trying new things and pushing boundaries! There is also an amazing and supportive early childhood community out there, so start reaching out and making connections, even if it's just the people you work with to start off. It makes our work so much easier and more motivating when you are surrounded by support and positivity.
This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Wednesday, 19 August 2020
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