Educator in the spotlight: Catherine Field
Educator in the spotlight: Catherine Field
The Australian early childhood sector is comprised of a range of people with diverse personal and professional experiences, but with one goal in common, to provide high quality early education and care experiences for young children.
Every month we shine the spotlight on an outstanding educator to showcase the wonderful work happening within our community. This week it’s Catherine Field from Lightening Reef Early Learning Centre, Bendigo.
What is your name and where do you work?
My name is Catherine Field, but most people call me Cathy or Cath. I’m currently working across two early learning centres: Lightning Reef YMCA Early Learning Centre and Derrimut YMCA Early Learning Centre. My main location of work is at Lightning Reef YMCA Early Learning Centre, which is based in Bendigo, but I’m currently also supporting Derrimut YMCA Early Learning Centre for a few months while they recruit for a new centre manager.
What is your professional background and career experience?
I have worked in early learning and kindergarten settings for about 20 years, with breaks in between to look after my two daughters. I have a diploma in children’s programs and I have completed several management courses. Fun fact: I also worked in our family bakery for several years where I learnt pastry cooking.
What attracted you to a career in the early childhood sector?
Initially I went to university and studied primary teaching but found that I enjoyed engaging with the younger children more, so I deferred and began working in a small child care centre. I really enjoyed getting to know the children and families, and I knew it was what I wanted to continue doing. I have made many friendships since joining the industry and I love meeting up with children when they’ve grown to hear about what they are doing.
What does a ‘normal’ day look like for you?
What you prepare for and what the day actually brings can be very different! My day can be a mix of administrative tasks, meeting with support agencies, liaising with educators or even cooking meals for the service – that’s what makes it so interesting! Managing a service provides you with the opportunity to work on a variety of tasks throughout the day, but it’s always lovely to be able to spend time with the children and families.
What makes your service unique?
Lightning Reef YMCA ELC is a large service with up to 115 children per day. We offer long day care, sessional kinder located on site with the local primary school and maternal health services, so we support a large portion of our community. We have a diverse community of families from varied backgrounds and our goal is to support as many children as we can.
We have a great team of educators that are also passionate about supporting all children, no matter their needs.
Lightning Reef YMCA ELC has commenced working with Bendigo Deaf Hub to train our educators to use Auslan throughout the program. We are also working closely with Bendigo Multicultural Services to ensure our Karen and Dinka families feel welcome. We use an interpreter in our kinder program to support children to engage meaningfully in play, as well as several training sessions for our educators around the journey of a refugee and how this experience can impact a child and family.
We have recently engaged with Foundation House and joined a local support group ‘Communities of Practice’, which brings local agencies together to ensure ongoing and consistent support to refugee and asylum seeking families in the early years. The group will focus on strategies to support refugee and asylum seeker families to feel safe, supported and welcome in our community.
Lighting Reef YMCA ELC has also made strong connections with Communities for Children and many other local agencies across Bendigo to ensure the best outcomes for children.
What are some of the advantages of working in early childhood education and care?
We are able to make a difference in the lives of children and we can provide a safe and caring learning environment that supports all children to be their best self. We really do make a difference to so many children’s lives and that’s a wonderful feeling.
What are some of the biggest challenges facing the sector?
There are a number of challenges that impact the sector. The lack of experienced educators that are available to work and the value of early childhood educators is often not as recognised as we would like it to be. There is a lot of government support for kinder through to higher level schooling, but we seem to be undervalued as an industry.
The need for families to work longer hours or families experiencing trauma has led to a rapid increase in children requiring care. We have a high number of children attending our service who have been impacted by trauma, which brings a whole range of extra challenges for educators.
The sector needs to invest in ongoing education and support networks for the educators that work with these children and families, as it is very challenging and often confronting.
How has your service changed to deal with these challenges?
Being with the service for 10 years has given me the opportunity to build strong relationships within our local area. We have engaged with many local agencies to mentor and train our educators about the impacts of trauma on child development. We keep our team of educators well informed of any changes that may affect a child’s wellbeing and the educators are committed to providing the best care they can. We are able to recognise the needs of our more vulnerable families and have worked hard to establish honest and open connections, which helps to support the best outcome for the child.
Relationships really do matter and a strong connection can make all the difference to a child’s wellbeing.
What advice would you offer someone thinking about a career in early childhood education and care?
If you want to make a difference, this is a career path that can help you achieve that outcome. I certainly wouldn’t say this job is easy, but it can be very rewarding.
I absolutely love my job.
This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Monday, 26 July 2021
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