Posted September 2022

Congratulations to all the winners of the 2022 Making ‘the KU Difference’ Awards, which were presented at the KU Annual Conference last weekend.

Each award recipient has been recognised for their outstanding contributions to KU, children, families and communities over the past year.

Making the KU Difference for Children

  • Kate Lawrence, Child Care Worker, KU Mayfield Preschool
  • Susan James Allan, Early Childhood Teacher, KU Bradfield Park Children's Centre
  • Lauren Gardner, Early Childhood Teacher, KU Peter Pan Paddington Preschool
  • Carly Wells, Advanced Diploma Educator, KU Gwynneville Preschool

Kate is described as an authentic, intuitive, empathetic co-collaborator and educator who has strong communication skills. Her astute knowledge of a child in their holistic context of both family and environment is combined with a desire to challenge their knowledge and stoke their curiosity. Kate’s ability to be present and think creatively on her feet means children have a diverse and flexible learning environment that is relevant to KU Mayfield’s projects and questions. In addition, Kate uses her music and song writing skills to highlight messages of inclusion, the magic of learning and childhood.

Susan is a passionate, supportive, patient and encouraging teacher who creates experiences that invite children to think about their health and safety. Through stories, pictures and matching games, Susan teaches children about dental hygiene, nutrition and how to keep themselves safe and protected. Susan also works hard to build her knowledge to support children with additional needs and has invested in training to learn how to better understand and respond to children with challenging behaviours.

Lauren goes above and beyond to listen, document and respond to the needs of the children in her care. She carefully reflects on her engagements and intentional teaching. Lauren programs for all children, taking into consideration each child’s individual emotional and physical needs. Her knowledge of children's emotions and pedagogical theories has sparked discussion and learning with other educators which, in turn, has a positive impact on all the children.

Carly exudes genuine passion in her role of educating children. She is described as selfless, generous and kind. Whether through critical reflections, working hard to upskill, or even presenting new ideas and strategies, Carly has the benefits to all children always in the top of her mind. She has created spectacular, inviting play spaces and takes time to get to know every child and family – going above and beyond to support them, meet their needs and nurture their development through well-planned and thoughtful experiences that benefit the entire preschool community.

Making the KU Difference for Families

  • KU Bulli Preschool team under the leadership of Michelle Lashbrook

The team at KU Bulli is described as hard-working, dedicated and committed to their community.
When the team temporarily relocated to KU Figtree, they went above and beyond to create a well-planned, predictable daily routine for the children. The team also displayed great diligence in supporting everyone through the transition back to KU Bulli. Together, Michelle and the team have collaborated to create beautiful play spaces and a daily program that is responsive to every child’s needs, based on strong principles of attachment and a value of positive, nurturing relationships with children and their families.

Making the KU Difference for Communities

  • KU Ashmont Preschool and Family Centre team under the leadership of Eileen Bach

The team at KU Ashmont, under Eileen’s leadership, has established a genuine presence within the local community. Working tirelessly to engage the community, the preschool has hosted local Elders to deliver a Wiradjuri language program and a dance group to celebrate NAIDOC Week – to name just a few events. Because they have excelled in developing respectful and trusting relationships with the families and community of Ashmont, they now have a high percentage of Indigenous enrolments at the preschool, meaning more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families are able to access early education.

Making the KU Difference for Staff

  • Natalie Preston, Director, KU Berowra Preschool
  • Natasha Martin, CCE Floater, KU Mayfield Preschool
  • Permanent Relief team, under the leadership of Lyla Irving, KU Central Office
  • Carolyn Wilson, State Manager, NSW/ACT Inclusion Agency

Natalie is described as an exceptional Director who truly values the contributions of her team. She works with their strengths to drive quality improvement and change. Natalie used the development of the service’s philosophy and curriculum statement to unpack the team's values and beliefs when working with children. She then supported the team to use these statements to improve the quality of the educational program, the resourcing of the physical environment, along with the upskilling of the team through professional development.

Natasha is recognised for her positive energy, dedication and professionalism while contributing as part of the KU Mayfield team. She goes above and beyond by attending staff meetings in her own time as well as participating in working bees and professional learning opportunities outside work hours. She is also a champion for the service’s Reconciliation Action Plan. Natasha makes a difference for staff every day by being fully engaged and intentional when it comes to contributing to KU Mayfield’s program.

Under the leadership of Lyla, KU’s Permanent Relief team is an experienced, flexible and professional group of teachers, educators, cooks and administration assistants. The team has willingly travelled, sometimes at short notice, to services that are short staffed due to COVID-19 and have worked tirelessly to support centre staff throughout the COVID years, and as we continue to experience staff shortages. And they have given up their own professional development opportunities to bridge a gap at a time when KU has needed it most.

Carolyn calmly and graciously supported the NSW/ACT Inclusion Hub Managers and Inclusion Professionals as they navigated two years of change, adjustment to service delivery, policy and procedures. Within weeks of stepping into the State Manager position, Carolyn adjusted her role and practice to provide exemplary support to the team, our contract partners and worked closely with Government Departments. Carolyn is a dedicated leader and works tirelessly, to ensure Inclusion Hub managers and Inclusion Professionals are supported and feel heard.

Making the KU Difference to Quality

  • Marianna Georgiadis, Director, KU Liverpool Preschool
  • Yuki Moyle, Director, KU Sunbeam Preschool

Marianna has been the Director of KU Liverpool Preschool since 2015 and was also the Director for KU Marcia Burgess Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre last year. She has made a significant impact on both programs and has been pivotal to the success of the merger of the two services into the new structure at KU Liverpool Preschool. The new program offers an exciting educational program with the inclusion of children with high support needs. Marianna personifies commitment to best practice and high quality inclusive early childhood education.

Yuki strives to provide exceptional care and connection with the children, families and staff at KU Sunbeam Preschool. She goes above and beyond in providing an exemplary educational program where the service philosophy and values are evident and embedded in the practices and curriculum of the service environment. Yuki manages a well-resourced art studio, rich with a variety of mediums and resources. It’s a space for sensitive listening and deep explorations to support quality in children’s learning.

Making the KU Difference through Sustainability

  • KU Rushcutters Bay Preschool team under the leadership of Helen Meimaroglou

The whole team at KU Rushcutters Bay are recognised for their diligent practice of environmental awareness and sustainability within their urban environment. Under Helen’s leadership, families are encouraged to be mindful when packing lunches, and to upcycle items for arts and craft materials, while the children are learning to be aware of consumption. The KU Rushcutters Bay team is embedding behaviours that will create habits for a lifetime and lasting impact as the children grow up.

Making the KU Difference through Innovation

  • Bei Bei Liu, Educator and Maree Hoy, Child Care Educator at KU Bradfield Park, along with Laure Hislop, Learning and Development Practice Facilitator, and Cassandra Mezups, Marketing Project Lead, KU Central Office

This group collaborated on a project that has combined traditional and digital technologies to support the children of KU Bradfield Park, as they retold the story of KU’s rich 125-year history in a video animation titled, “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”. With no fixed idea of an outcome, the educators aimed to amplify the children’s thinking to help them create a world of fantasy and possibility. The innovative result morphs the analogue world of traditional drawings and the spoken word with digital storytelling using animation.

Making the KU Difference by Representing KU

  • KU Cheltenham Memorial Preschool team under the leadership of Michelle Healey
  • Education Quality Manager team, KU Central Office
  • Ashleigh Pengelly, Aboriginal Cultural Facilitator, KU Central Office
  • Business Operations team under the leadership of Lyndel Seymour, KU Central Office

The KU Cheltenham Memorial Preschool team represents KU through compassion, commitment to early childhood outcomes and presence in the community. Michelle led the KU Cheltenham team in hosting the NSW Premier's media announcement regarding the Early Childhood Education reforms earlier this year along with photo shoots for the Department of Education and LifeEd. Every interaction has proven the team to be flexible, adaptable and welcoming. The children are calm, engaged and demonstrate the impact of the quality educational program provided by all at KU Cheltenham.

The Education Quality team has provided consistent support for services, educators, children and families as they have navigated the changing and challenging landscape of COVID-19. They have effectively represented KU through the “Staying connected with KU” program, as well as the evolution of directors networking meetings that each of the EQMs facilitate. In addition, the EQMs have gone above and beyond to represent KU by working directly with children and the service teams to ensure services are able to operate during staff absences during COVID-19. Shifts covered by EQMs increased from 19 shifts in July to October 2020 to more recently 44 shifts between January and May this year.

Since Ash’s appointment as a KU community liaison facilitator, she has embedded herself in the Wagga Wagga community. She is actively engaged in representing KU by attending events and raising community awareness of KU's Statement of Commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and promoting Aboriginal community agencies and peoples. She advocates for and supports Aboriginal self-determination among Elders and community families in early childhood. In addition, Ash works with families and children to identify support systems for children with specific health requirements, as well as appropriate cultural educational services.

Congratulations go to the Business Operations team under the leadership of Lyndel Seymour at KU Central Office. The Business Operations team display extreme professionalism when they represent KU both internally and externally. Under Lyndel’s leadership, the team shoulders enormous responsibility in looking after all KU services in providing systems support, policy advice, funding analysis and guidance through our complex and ever-changing funding and operational environment. The team is widely recognised for knowledge in their field, timely responses to requests, along with friendliness and patience in often stressful times. In the most recent migration to Storypark Manage, the team effectively worked with all stakeholders and assisted to ensure services and families were helped throughout this process to achieve a smooth transition.

Making the KU Difference in Commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

  • KU Sutherland Preschool team under the leadership of Collette Heslehurst
  • Rachel Jones, NSW South West Inclusion Hub Manager, NSW/ACT Inclusion Agency

KU Sutherland staff have worked respectfully and consistently to deliver the Dharawal Language Program which provides children and educators solid foundations for understanding, respecting and learning the traditional local language. Collette regularly seeks guidance and permissions from Aboriginal Language Educators and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Programs team to ensure the practices and educational program of the service accurately reflect and reinforce the Dharawal Language Program as an ongoing and regular learning experience for all.

Rachel is an active advocate for reconciliation in her community, investing time in maintaining relationships with local Elders and making regular contact resulting in genuine connection. Rachel prioritises her attendance at the Yarning for Inclusion Group which, after being set and facilitated by her team, is now led by local services. Rachel leads by example and encourages her team to attend local events. When orienting new Inclusion Professionals, she respectfully shares her knowledge of local Wiradjuri culture, language and talks about places of significance to visit.

Making the KU Difference for Inclusion

  • Donna Archibald, Hub Manager Brisbane North and Specialist Equipment Library Manager, Inclusion Support Queensland
  • James Wood, Child Care Educator, KU Dem School Kids Care

Donna’s passion and commitment has made a significant difference to the inclusion of children within more than one hundred early childhood education and care services in Queensland. She has driven and inspired professionals to consider how specialist equipment may support children’s inclusion, and how educators may respond to and meet children’s needs differently. In response to the many initiatives and resources that Donna has spearheaded, educators say that children’s challenging behaviour has reduced, and participation and engagement of children has increased.

James has demonstrated a total commitment to supporting the inclusion of children with additional needs in the after-school care program at KU Dem School. He goes above and beyond in his own time to create resources and plans for the children and role models care, respect and engagement. James is well liked by all the children and is known to be an outstanding educator, as well as for his smile, positivity and can-do attitude.

KU Marcia Burgess Award

  • KU Osborne Park Preschool team under the leadership of Lisa Milham

Lisa has a strong lens on inclusion and social justice and she leads a team that has truly demonstrated an unmistakable commitment to children and families in the areas of child development, additional needs and wellbeing. Last year, a child at KU Osborne Park was identified as having gender dysphoria. The whole team supported the child’s gender identity as they transitioned and worked with the child, their parents and Allied Health professionals to create a safe and inclusive space. KU Osborne Park is inclusive of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the team is striving to build on awareness of their privileges and bias. The team supports the inclusion of children with additional needs, working closely with Allied Health professionals, their Education Support Manager and families to ensure they are best positioned to support each child.