How Asuka combines her culture, creativity and care to create a career with heart at Goodstart
It takes a lot of courage to move to a new country. And if you’re learning a new language, too? That requires a whole different level of resilience. Yet, Asuka Kirby has turned her biggest challenge into her greatest strength. At Goodstart, our Assistant Educator shares her Japanese language and heritage to create deep connections with the children in her care. A talented artist and lifelong learner, Asuka combines her passions to shape a meaningful career with a team that values her unique contribution.
A beautiful bond is built
Asuka Kirby remembers the moment that changed everything as if it were yesterday. In the bustling pre-kindy room at Goodstart Stafford, Asuka sat on a chair, calmly opened her Japanese children’s book, and began reading.
Suddenly, the room began to hush. The young children turned their heads and listened. What was Miss Asuka saying? They drew nearer, enthralled by the beautifully different words.
“I had been trying to think of a way to build more of a connection with the children,” says Asuka, who is originally from Japan. “I had been learning English for nearly 10 years, but I still faced some communication barriers. Then one day, I thought, ‘I can speak Japanese - perhaps I can teach the children to speak Japanese, too?’”
That day, Asuka was delighted to have the children’s full attention - and they were curious to learn more.
“Afterwards, they asked me, ‘How do you say this in Japanese? What does that word mean?’ And I thought, ‘I did it! I built that connection.’”
Ten years later, Asuka still shares and celebrates her heritage with our Stafford centre - from Japanese cooking and food to traditional dress and dance. Yet, reading that first book holds a special place in our Assistant Educator’s heart.
“My mum often read that book to me when I was little. It was my favourite, so it was beautiful to share it with the children. It was like seeing my lifetime and their lifetime connect. At that moment, it felt magical.”
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Connection through creativity
Asuka often thought about a career in education, yet she began her working life in the creative industry. A talented artist, Asuka designed women’s and children’s clothing and accessories. But the world beyond Japan was calling, and Asuka wanted a career with a greater sense of purpose. So, in 2002, she made the solo journey to Australia.
“I spent a lot of time in those first 10 years learning English. It wasn’t easy, and I got a bit homesick. But I kept reminding myself I came here for a reason. I travelled to all the different states, learnt how to connect with the people, and kept looking for a place where I could express my passion - and I got married! My husband’s family kept saying, ‘You love children so much - why don’t you give working with children a go?’ Then I saw a role at Goodstart Stafford and thought I might try it.”
From the moment Asuka joined Goodstart in 2010, she knew she’d discovered more than a meaningful role; she’d also found a family. Over the years, Asuka has seized every opportunity to learn and grow, enriching our Stafford centre with her creativity, individuality and care.
“The support I get here is something I value every day. I feel part of a team, a family. My Centre Director has been there for me no matter what - especially when I was studying for my Certificate III and Diploma in Early Education. It is not always easy when English is your second language, but everyone here is so open and welcoming. It is a happy place - that’s why I stay here.”
Art remains one of Asuka’s life passions - and one she enthusiastically shares with the children in her care. One of her greatest inspirations is French artist and children’s book author Hervé Tullet.
“A family from the centre gave me one of Hervé’s great books, Art Workshops for Children
, as a Christmas gift. That book changed my way of expressing art with the children completely.”
Drawing on Hervé’s books and techniques, Asuka created an incredible arts program for the children at Stafford, nurturing their independence through creativity. After she got in touch with the renowned artist, Asuka joined his project, The Ideal Exhibition, in 2019. And Hervé was so impressed with Asuka’s workshops at Goodstart that he included some of the children’s artwork in his book, L’Expo Ideale!
“I love seeing the children use their imaginations and find their love of art. It was a proud moment for me and the children to see their artwork in Hervé’s book. The children really do inspire me every day, so I always look for ways to inspire them. I ask myself, ‘How can I make a more joyful learning experience for them?’ It is a wonderful thing to explore the world of art with them.”
A unique contribution
Recipient of the 2021 CEO’s Goodstarter of the Year Award for South East Queensland North, Asuka places just as much emphasis on nurturing children’s self-confidence as she does on their learning.
“Being from a different country, I am unique and different,” Asuka says. “I embrace that. And I hope I can role model to the children that it is OK to be different. It is OK to be yourself. Everyone has their own personality and strengths. As educators, we need to remember that, too, so we can understand each child individually.”
As the mother of an energetic eight-year-old, flexibility is important to Asuka. Her days are full, but she has the support of her team to meet her family’s needs and maintain her wellbeing inside and outside of work. She also has space to create her own paintings at home, and plans to continue instilling a love of the arts in more children, families and the greater Goodstart community.
“Early learning is so impactful. The days are busy and you need a lot of energy, but I have never found a job more rewarding than this one. You and the child create a journey together. You learn from each other. From my experiences, I’ve learned that maybe you are the one who can changed a child’s life. It is beautiful to be part of their life, and for them to be part of mine, too.”
A job that changes lives. A place that works for you.