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How to thrive as an early childhood teacher

Award-winning teacher Kylie Ryan shares her tips.

Careers and employment

Article by Deni Kirkova

Kylie Ryan is an exceptional leader at our Kirwan Golf Links Drive early learning centre. 

She won the Teacher of the Year award, jointly with Victoria Sims, at the national Goodies 2023. Kylie is committed to children's development and wellbeing.

After spending some years as a stay-at-home mother, Kylie re-entered the workforce. She started in early childhood education and care (ECEC) at Kirwan Golf Links Drive, QLD.

The role suited her well and she approached it with dedication and passion. Kylie was soon promoted to lead educator. She's now the kindergarten early childhood teacher (ECT). And she’s studying for her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education.

Kylie said: “I’ve overcome many challenges as a single mother of three. I developed resilience, good time management, and calm navigation of complex situations. These skills help me excel at work. I’m also dedicated to continuous learning.

“My experiences have instilled in me deep understandings. I am empathetic, adaptable, and passionate about supporting positive development in young children.

"I was completing my Diploma through Tafe North and did my placement at Kirwan Golf Links Drive. During this time, I saw educators facilitating children's learning through play. It inspired me and sparked my enthusiasm. As I transitioned from a student to an assistant, I worked with different age groups. I discovered a passion for working with under twos and extended my expertise to older ages.

"Later, I found an interest in working with children in the year before they go to school. I can recall the impact of my first kindergarten teacher, who was a remarkable role model. She inspired me to also create positive, lasting memories for children in my care.

“My diverse experiences help me approach my role holistically. And I'm committed to creating a nurturing and enriching environment for young learners. I am dedicated to supporting their academic development and social and emotional wellbeing.”

Kylie sitting in a circle with students taking them through a creative learning activityKylie sitting in a circle with students taking them through a creative learning activity.

Kylie curates tailored teaching methods for children with neurodiversity. She offers flexible and proactive support for families.

And her influence extends beyond her role as a kindergarten teacher. Kylie also serves as an R U OK? and Reconciliation Champion. She's committed to First Nations people and initiates a daily Acknowledgment to Country. She engages in community projects like a donation drive for a women's shelter. Such initiatives teach children empathy and inspire a sense of belonging. They contribute to mental wellbeing and inclusivity at her centre.

Kylie's committed to the environment. She involves children in gardening, recycling programs and pond restoration. These instil an appreciation for sustainability. She puts emphasis on safety protocols and a safety-conscious environment. The children also learn about personal responsibility.

As a mentor, Kylie’s an exceptional leader who inspires her colleagues. She's a role model for excellence, leadership, and service uplift. Kylie utilises resources and involves children in learning processes. She seeks out knowledge and shares it with her peers.

Her engagement with environmental rating scales has enhanced the learning environment. The National ERS team recognise her commitment to continuous improvement. She also features as an inspiring example in Goodstart's Centre Focus magazine.

Goodies Award judges commented on Kylie's values of trust, compassion, and community work. They recognise how she nurtures parent relationships and promotes sustainability.

They said: “Kylie's extraordinary journey from a student at the centre to the kindergarten room teacher is a testament to her exceptional service, commitment, and outstanding leadership.” 

Our interview with Kylie

What makes a great early childhood teacher? 

Kylie sitting with a student, smiling happily.

Kylie said: “Being an exceptional ECT takes deep, genuine empathy and consideration. Teachers need to understand unique needs, emotions, and developmental stages.

“I approach this by putting myself in the shoes of each child. I think about how I would have liked to be treated by my teacher – with kindness, patience, and respect. This allows me to connect with them and create trust and security. By understanding children's perspectives, I can tailor my teaching.

“Teachers also have to create a stimulating and inclusive learning environment. This is great for children's development. It supports their social skills, emotional intelligence, academia and love of learning. Rooms should fuel intellectual curiosity and foster a sense of belonging. The goal is to help children feel valued, heard, and encouraged to express themselves.

“I do this by planning diverse and engaging activities. I ensure these cater to various learning styles so each child can take part. And I strive to make learning joyful and memorable through play, exploration, and collaboration.

“Budding teachers should also be committed to ongoing professional development. Continual learning is a hallmark of a good ECT.

"Personally, I seek out courses and attend workshops. I stay informed about the latest educational practices and child development research. This helps me refine my practice and provide high-quality, contemporary education.

"I adapt to the evolving needs of my students and the educational landscape. This means I can provide the best possible experience and set them up for success in life."

If you had some advice for new teachers, what would it be?

Kylie said: "New teachers should cultivate a mindset of continuous learning and collaboration. It's my number one tip. Embrace curiosity and openness on this fulfilling journey. Try out new practices and educational tools. Experiment with different teaching methods. Both children's needs and the field of early learning are ever evolving.

"Working alongside your team is not just a formality. Your experienced colleagues are a valuable resource for your professional growth. They are there to offer support and share knowledge. Together, you can collaborate in shaping the best learning experiences for children.

"Appreciate the incredible potential within the minds of the children you teach. Let them lead the play, for their imaginations are open to offering unique thoughts and ideas. Embrace the uniqueness of each child and be receptive to their perspectives. You'll create meaningful learning experiences and support empowerment and enthusiasm for exploration.

"Be humble and eager to learn. Seek guidance when needed. And collaborate with your team to create a dynamic environment. Stay committed to observation, innovation, and child-led experiences. You will enrich the children's educational journey and evolve as an amazing teacher."

Why is Goodstart a great place for a teacher to thrive?

Kylie said: "Goodstart is an exceptional place for teachers to flourish. The organisation has a robust support system. They're commitment to professional development.

"In particular, their mentorship programs set them apart. Goodstart guides teachers and allows them to learn from others. They can gain key insights into effective practices.

"Professional development opportunities are not only encouraged; they're provided. The culture encourages both personal and professional growth. Goodstart understands that staying ahead of the latest practices and research is important. Their commitment to continuous learning ensures teachers can enhance their skills and grow.

"The organisation goes beyond acknowledging educators and ECTs. They value their significant contributions. Goodstart advocates for the early learning sector. This creates an empowering atmosphere where educators and teachers feel appreciated. They understand the pivotal role we play in shaping the future of young minds."

Inspired? Explore Teaching roles at Goodstart.

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