Child care educator in the spotlight Almut Weiler Anderson
Child care educator in the spotlight Almut Weiler Anderson
What is your full name?
My full name is Almut Weiler Anderson, Almut is my first name, Weiler my maiden name, Anderson is my husband’s surname. I am 40 years old.
Which service do you work in? How many staff and children are in your service?
I work at KU Peter Pan Paddington Preschool, NSW. It is a two unit Preschool with 20 children in each classroom. The children are aged 3-5 years and attend either 2 or 3 days per week. So altogether we have 80 children over the course of the week. Our permanent staff comprises four teachers and six educators.
In addition to my part-time work at KU Peter Pan Paddington Preschool I work as a Tertiary Supervisor for Macquarie University, supporting students during their practicum placements.
What is your professional background and career experience?
I completed a Master of Primary Teaching in Germany, but after moving to Australia in 2007 I started working in a preschool. It quickly became apparent to me that this was the age group that I wanted to dedicate myself to, and I undertook further studies in early childhood education at Macquarie University.
I have always had a passion for writing, and have recently started writing children's picture books. My first story features a strong young girl as the lead and addresses the topic of self-empowerment. It will be published by a German publisher next year. I am currently in the planning stages of my next picture book.
I think I have reached a stage in my career where I am in a strong position to share my knowledge and skills with others—both early childhood professionals and parents, and I’m looking at how I can incorporate this into my work.
What attracted you to a career in the early childhood sector?
When I was a university student studying Primary School Teaching I lived above a Bosnian restaurant in Germany. In my second year of studies two Bosnian refugees started working in the kitchen of the restaurant. They had a three-year old son, Bato, whom they brought to work. Over time I got to know the family and ended up spending a lot of time with Bato, playing soccer in the courtyard, working together in the garden, etc. Neither Bato nor his parents spoke any German in the beginning, which was a challenge. But we found ways to communicate across language barriers. It was great to see Bato flourish due to the attention I was able to give him. And I gained a lot from this experience on many levels as well. This instilled the belief in me that by being an early childhood teacher I will have the opportunity to make a positive difference in children’s lives.
What does a 'normal' day look like for you?
I work with the children from 8am until 3:30pm. We usually spend about half of our time outside in our wonderful playground that we have recently upgraded, to add more opportunities for learning with and about nature. Each day I have a programming break during which I plan and document learning experiences, speak with parents or other early childhood professionals involved in the care of a child and read the various Early Childhood publications that circulate in our staff room.
What makes your service unique?
At KU Peter Pan Paddington Preschool we specialise in creating opportunities for children to engage with natural play spaces within an urban environment, while challenging them to take calculated risks in their learning and exploration.
We incorporate this into our program through providing time each day for sustained engagement within the outdoor environment. Provisions such as our worm farm, recycling stations and seasonal garden beds, attest to our commitment to sustainable practice. In addition, children are encouraged to climb trees, slide down the hill on skate boards, play with sticks and challenge themselves in ways that build their confidence.
We feel that the children benefit from our area of specialisation, as it provides them with unique opportunities to develop vital life skills in a safe and supportive environment.
What are some of the advantages of working in early childhood education and care?
It inspires me when I see children's great imaginations and creativity. My favourite aspect about working with children is "Seeing the world with new eyes". Marcel Proust said: "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new sights, but in looking with new eyes."
I love having the opportunity to join children in their perspective and to experience their sense of wonder when I accompany them on their voyage of exploring and making sense of the world.
What are some of the biggest challenges facing the sector?
I agree with the core statement of the "Early Learning: Everyone Benefits campaign": We need an increase in public awareness and understanding of the benefits of investing in early learning for Australia's future prosperity and to secure political commitment to increase access to early learning.
How has your service changed to deal with these challenges?
KU Children's Services, as an organisation, is a sponsor of the Early Learning: Everyone Benefits campaign.
How does the early childhood industry need to change to adapt to these challenges?
I think the early childhood industry needs to unite in advocating for themselves and promote an understanding of the importance of early learning and affordable, high quality early childhood education.
What advice would you offer someone thinking about a career or looking for a promotion in early childhood education and care?
Keep reflecting on, and questioning, your practice and engage in professional dialogue with colleagues. You can learn something from everyone you meet! Be open to change and new learning. Work on developing your communication skills, especially in regard to listening to others, adults as well as children.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Anne Landers once famously said: "It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do themselves, that will make them successful human beings."
I am passionate about offering children more opportunities for risk-taking at Preschool. I see this as another way to promote children's confidence, agency and autonomy – another way to empower them. I believe that it is crucial to a child's cognitive, emotional and physical development to be exposed to appropriate opportunities for risk-taking during childhood, and I agree with Gill, who asserts: "By providing opportunities for children to manage their own risks in a controlled environment, they will learn vital life skills needed for adulthood."
I was fortunate to be announced as the national winner in the Early Education and Care Awards in the category of Educator of the Year after being also recognised as the State Winner in the category, and will share in training and professional development grants to the value of $50,000. This will enable me to build upon my current learnings and share my knowledge and skills with colleagues and peers to make a real contribution in childhood education.
This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Thursday, 21 January 2021
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