How compassionate leader Maria learnt to spread her wings and soar into early childhood education
Former Flight Attendant Maria Baron Ramirez was a reassuring presence for passengers travelling across states and countries. Today, she’s an Educational Leader who provides first-class support to children on their early learning journeys. Maria’s had her own exciting adventure. After moving from Colombia to Australia, she found a safe and welcoming environment at Goodstart, where her career continues to soar. In turn, this compassionate leader nurtures the rest of her team to steer towards their own professional goals.
The sky’s the limit
Flying on a plane for the first time is an exciting experience. It can be a little scary, too! But Maria Baron Ramirez’s beaming smile would immediately put children’s minds at ease. The caring Flight Attendant loved being a part of this significant moment in a child’s life. And after 10 years, it inspired her to chart a different, more meaningful course.
“Every time I took care of a child, I could feel the connection,” Maria says. “I knew how to make their first experience on a plane a positive one. I would show them the cockpit and help them feel comfortable and excited to be on a plane. Showing children a part of the world for the very first time grew on me. It made me realise how much of an impact you can have on someone, and I wanted to make more of a difference.”
Maria’s work introduced her to many different cultures and countries, but multicultural Australia stood out the most. So, she decided to leave her home in Colombia, South America, and head Down Under to study English and find a new career.
“During my language course, I made a friend with someone who was studying early childhood education. It sounded so interesting, and I knew that’s what I wanted to do. So, I did my Certificate III and Diploma in Early Childhood Education and enrolled with Goodstart.”
Maria joined our Goodstart Mosman team as an Educator in 2016. Two years later, she relocated to the Northern Territory to become part of the Goodstart Nightcliff family. Today, Maria is an award-winning Educational Leader. She’s studying for her Bachelor of Education - Early Childhood Teaching, and is an inspiration to her fellow team members as they strive towards their own professional goals.
“There are always opportunities to learn, which is something I role model for my team. I want to help them develop their professional identity. Speaking English as a second language, I am challenged every day, but I have always had the support of my team. Learning happens during our whole life cycle. We are here to support the children in their learning, but we learn, too. We never stop learning - that’s what I love about my job.”
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Making an impact
A life-long learner, Maria has embraced the many training opportunities at Goodstart. She’s honed her leadership skills through various short courses and participated in several key initiatives, including Family Connections - a socially inclusive program for Educators and Centre Directors to enhance outcomes for children and families in vulnerable circumstances.
“I have felt supported since day one. I’ve always had opportunities to engage in courses and initiatives, and I feel that’s what’s helped me get to where I am today. It’s also helped me identify the different kinds of support each team member needs so that I can help them in their learning and development.”
And of course, Maria adores playing such a vital role in a child’s early learning journey, helping them gain confidence, independence and skills for life.
“When the pre-schoolers move to big school, and we have our last day celebrations, it’s very emotional. They say, ‘Thank you, Miss Maria!’ And they say it from the heart. You’ve nurtured them since they were babies, and now you see they are confident and learning from the world. The first five years are a critical time in their lives, and we’ve been there with them every day. That’s what drives me - to help children get ready for the world.”
In 2021, Maria’s exceptional leadership skills and unwavering commitment to early learning saw her win two incredible awards: the CEO’s Goodstarter of the Year Award for SA/NT, and Outstanding Leader in the 2021 Northern Territory Education and Care Awards.
“Winning Goodstarter of the Year was so rewarding. I’ve grown so much personally and professionally - I can see the impact of Goodstart in my life. And when one person wins an award, we all win. It’s nice to be part of an organisation that appreciates us and recognises our work.”
An inclusive team culture
Living in one of Australia’s most multicultural capital cities, Maria feels right at home in Darwin. As a member of a female Colombian dance group, Maria performs at community events throughout the year and is proud to share the beauty and culture of Colombia with the children at Goodstart Nightcliff.
“Dancing is my passion. Colombia’s national dance is called Cumbia - it’s a very traditional, authentic dance. We wear long, colourful skirts and flowers in our hair. We’ve done our own little performance for the children, too, which they loved. I feel that Goodstart is a multicultural organisation. They acknowledge and support who we are and are very respectful of diversity and inclusion.”
As for the future, Maria is excited to take her career to even greater heights and see the Goodstart family continue to flourish.
“Supporting those early years is so important. We are nurturing citizens of the future. As early childhood Educators, we make an impact every day. That’s what I try to share with my team. Every day is an opportunity to have an impact and change a child’s life.”
A job that changes lives. A place that works for you.