Aimee MacAskill, manager of the University’s six early childhood education centres, has just become a recipient of a major New Zealand teaching award. MacAskill was one of six recipients of an ASG National Excellence in Teaching Award on the 21st of February.
According to MacAskill, the most rewarding part of her job is watching tamariki grow and develop. “In my current role it has become more about supporting and growing kaiako and leaders, but the core of what we do always comes back to the tamariki,” says MacAskill. “As early childhood professionals we find ourselves in a very unique position where in some cases we have children in our care from 6 weeks old…we celebrate in their achievements with whānau and most of us consider a child and their whānau as our own. These relationships are so precious.”
Numerous studies have highlighted the benefits of early childhood education for children and society. The Ministry of Education states that early childhood education can prepare children to be more confident and resilient as they head to primary school, and help to develop key social skills. The Ministry of Justice asserts that “high-quality early childhood education reduces the likelihood of future criminal behaviour and other negative social outcomes for disadvantaged children”.
“From a hands on perspective, I can honestly say the biggest benefit of a child attending an early childhood education service is their ability to form attachments and relationships with a diverse range of people.” MacAskill says. “For up to 10 hours a day we are the primary caregivers to these special little people. Once a child settles in a centre and begins forming those relationships, everything else just seems to fall into place. Milestones are achieved and celebrated, and special care and dedication is given to the achievement of things that might not come as easy as they should.”
MacAskill’s recognition comes at a time when calls for pay parity for early childhood teachers are intensifying. In December, 560 teachers signed an open letter to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Minister of Education Chris Hipkins, calling for early childhood teachers to be paid the same as kindergarten and primary school teachers. MacAskill is hopeful that pay parity will eventually be achieved by the sector. “There are many centres out there who are paying well over and above the average and the University of Auckland ECE Centres are one of them,” says MacAskill. “We will get parity, it is just going to require some hard mahi and advocacy in our profession, this starts with positive stories about ECE and getting the message out there about just how special the work early childhood professionals do is.”