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Teachers play such an important role in making Kidsfirst the quality education provider that is is today. Professional development is key to keeping our teachers at the top of their game. It’s so important and that’s why, every year, in the first term break, we hold our Kidsfirst Professional Learning Hui.


“This year saw the inaugural waiata group stand tall and lead us in inspiring waiata tautoko for our speakers,” says Kidsfirst Kindergartens Education Services Manager Kathryn O’Connell-Sutherland. “We received heartfelt acknowledgement for the powerful sound and harmonizing of Whakarongo – thank you to everyone for your contribution in making this so special and memorable.”


“Teaching, particularly in the early years, is an ever-evolving profession yet the fundemental kaupapa remains the same. We’re informed by new innovations in science and technology, different cultural perspectives, what’s going on in our natural environment, as well as all that’s happening in the world at a macro, political and economic level.”


“This makes every day different and exciting – as teachers we have to be passionate and positive, adaptable and enterprising. Its also important that we challenge ourselves and each other to be open and think critically. And these are some of the ways professional development can benefit us.”


Kidsfirst as an organisation has been truly pioneering in building professional development initiatives for kindergarten teachers, and therefore advancing respect and value for all that early childhood educators do. This year saw a remarkable line up of high quality speakers; teachers, academics, tangata whenua and an international keynote presenter.


The first Professional Learning Hui was held back in 2012 and attracted huge numbers of participants, despite its initial experimental nature. Some of these very first attendees said they felt a renewed passion for their work having had the chance to discuss, relfect and share ideas with their peers, and we’ve continued with it ever since – solidifying the format and building a stronger event year on year.


“In gathering together annually, we bounce off of each other’s energy, fueling more questions and innovative ideas. It’s always great to see everyone from around our network interacting and/or presenting workshops on their experiences for others to learn from, not to mention all of the quality catch-ups and conversations that are sparked outside of the organised sessions!


(PHOTO CAPTION) This year was a vision of collaboration as delegates interacted and sat together in the courtyard in between workshops (hoping to get a photo)


Over 300 Kidsfirst teachers attended this year’s event held during the term break on Wednesday 26 and Thursday 27 April at Rangi Ruru Girls’ School. We were also excitied to host so many of our colleagues from the wider early childhood community, across the education sector and from around the country!


The theme of this year’s event was ‘Embracing our past, looking to our future’. This is firstly, about acknowledging the place of tangata whenua, maintaining pride in our heritage and building from it to adapt and develop as an organisation that supports and nurtures today’s children and whānau.


Organised by the Kidsfirst ESM team and a fabulous group of volunteers, 2017 was a particularly impressive programme, with phenomenal key note speakers and workshop presenters, and a strong focus on bicultural practice, social justice and inclusion.


First on stage was Dr Lesley Rameka from the University of Waikato who shared her work with us - Te Whatu Pōkeka: Kaupapa Māori Assessment for Learning. Core to our theme, she explored history, including traditional Māori contructs, and kaupapa Māori as critical theory. This was an inspiring way to start our hui and an opportunity for teachers to hear an authentic presentation as we continue to learn and undertsand te Ao Māori from our own cultural location.


And after lunch, we welcomed Professor Marilyn Fleer from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. Her current research around concept formation and play as an important precursor to imagination and thinking into adulthood – is gaining lots of international interest. Her examples of a Playworlds approach and how to implement this were intriguing. (Playworlds are creative situations where children, supported by adults - their teachers or whānau - immerse themselves in an imaginary world to explore different meanings of objects and think abstractly).


On Day Two, we were privaledged to hear from Ngahiwi Apanui, Chief Executive of Te Taura Whiri I Te Reo Māori (Māori Language Commission). His passion for Te Reo Māori language was timely and his statistics were telling. He spoke about some of the initiatives going on around New Zealand to revitalise our national language and reminded us it was all of our responsibliy.


Professor Emeritus Helen May from the University of Otago was our final keynote speaker. She took us on a journey through time with some fanatastic photos from her soon to be released book including a tribute to how Kidsfirst Kindergartens responded to adversity during the Canterbury Quakes. Helen reminded us of the origins of kindergarten and our core philosophy as she looked into how kindergarten fits into the political landscape of Aotearoa in the 21st century – how policy and private enterprise affect our kindergarten philosophy, and what the future might look like.


We were proud of the large number of teaching teams presenting this year on day one which set the scene perfectly. Workshop topics ranged from utilising green screens in children’s learning to celebrating Pasifika at kindergarten to promoting nonfiction books. Presenters included winners from the previous year’s At Our Heart Awards, teaching teams from around our network, and special guests from outside organisations and universities.


The hui ended with a panel discussion with three of the writing team who were responsible for the revision of our national curriculum and the new digital Te Whāriki (2017)!


Involvement from these esteemed professionals is testament to the quality professional development that we offer. And further evidence of the advantages of engaging together on the latest research and perspectives, is the number of practitioners representing kindergartens and early childhood centres beyond Kidsfirst – from all around New Zealand – who we welcome to engage with us on the latest research and perspectives, and who keep coming back every year. (think this needs rewording J)


“We received very positive feedback from our visiting speakers who remarked on the quality of our programme, the line up of presenters and they each thanked us for the manaakitanga they felt and received. Our colleagues appreciated the opportunity to connect with our teachers and commented on their professionalism and openness to new learning,” says Kathryn.


As Kidsfirst Kindergartens CE Sherryll Wilson said in her opening address, “early childhood teachers are so influential in our society – with the ability to inact profound change. We are proud to offer the Professional Learning Hui as a platform to support all of our teachers’ inspiring work, to help them come together, express ideas and continue to energise and grow young minds - the leaders of tomorrow.”




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