An apple for early childhood teacher

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Minister of Education Hekia Parata (left) presents Invercargill early childhood teacher Rebecca Hansen with her award for outstanding contribution to teaching at the ASG National Excellence in Teaching Awards at Wellington's Parliament Buildings on Tuesday. Photo: Mark Tantrum Photography Ltd

SHE may have only been teaching for three years, but Invercargill early childhood teacher Rebecca Hansen is right up there with the best.

She and five others received the top award for their outstanding contribution to teaching as part of the ASG National Excellence in Teaching Awards (NEiTA) at Wellington’s Parliament Buildings on Tuesday.

Each recipient received a $5000 professional development grant. They were selected from more than 200 nominations.

NEiTA chairman Allen Blewitt said in a statement Mrs Hansen was a wonderful ambassador for the teaching profession who had earned the respect of the wider school community.

Mrs Hansen said the other recipients of the awards had been teaching for decades, whereas she had only been teaching for three years.

“I am just the baby, the junior. It is wonderful to be around these people,” she said from Wellington.

Rebecca  Hansen with her award for outstanding contribution to teaching.
Rebecca
Hansen with her award for outstanding contribution to teaching.

“I feel very humbled to be in a profession I truly love. I just give my all to the children.”

It was when dropping her daughter off at Glengarry Kindergarten and staying to talk and interact with the other children, she realised how much she enjoyed working with young children, she said.

A bakery manager for 23 years, Mrs Hansen quit her job to retrain as an early childhood teacher, starting her career at Otatara Preschool. She now teaches at Grasmere Kindergarten.

The mother of two said going back to study as a mature student had been difficult.

“It was scary at first… but the timing was right.”

Mrs Hansen said she was now focusing on “priority learners”, including Maori and Pasifika children and other minority cultures in which English was a second language.

Mrs Hansen was nominated for the award by a parent from Otatara Preschool.

Otatara Preschool owner/director Petrina Hickey said Mrs Hansen was the type of teacher both children and parents “gelled” with.

Mrs Hansen said she was grateful to the Otatara families and teachers for their support.

“They helped me become the teacher I am today.”

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