Ginninderra Early Childhood Centre (GECC) is located in Belconnen Community Centre. Since opening in January 1988, it’s been at the heart of the Belconnen community. Children who attend GECC make use of Community Centre facilities and programs. Many of them attend Tiny Tumblers educational gym play sessions. They also pay regular visits to Belconnen Community Gallery. On rainy days, they can run around in the spacious sports hall. On sunny days, they sometimes visit Margaret Timpson Park which is one of their favourite activities. They also enjoy regular visits to the library which is right next door to the Community Centre.
We spoke to the current Director and Assistant Director to find out what make GECC such a unique and special place.
Michelle has been director of GECC since May 2016. She’s worked in childcare for twenty years, having started an After School Care program at the age of 16. She has a Diploma in Children’s Services and been with Belconnen Community Service Children’s Programs for eight years.
From an early age, Michelle always wanted to be a teacher. She loves working in early childhood, “I really love that age where they’re just so teachable, like sponges, so ready to absorb everything.”
Michelle says that one of the strengths of GECC is that many of the educators have been working there for a long time. “It’s a very homey centre and we’re like a big family. We learn a lot from each other. In terms of qualifications, there are people with Diplomas and others who are just beginning their studies. We also share the knowledge and experience from being parents or even grandparents ourselves.”
Michelle says that another advantage of having such a stable team is the great relationships they have with the families of children in their care, “they know the older siblings because they cared for them too”.
GECC is a festive place with many celebrations throughout the year. One of Michelle’s favourite times is Children’s Week in October. “We make art for the annual exhibition in Belconnen Community Gallery. We have a crazy hair day and a pyjama day. We also have an afternoon tea with mums and dads.”
Michelle thinks that the best thing about her job is seeing the children progress from being babies and toddlers to pre-schoolers and then heading off to school. “I really like helping children to be confident, happy and ready for life.”
Ola is GECC’s longest serving educator. She remembers the day the centre opened on January 11 1988. Ola began her work at GECC in the baby’s room. “There was hardly anything in here. I helped to furnish the babies room and buy toys for all the rooms.”
Nearly 30 years later, Ola says she loves her job because, “it doesn’t make me bored. My personality is that I like meeting different people. I get on well with everybody and I’m always looking for something different.”
Ola speaks Fijian, Tongan and Hindi in addition to English. She recalls one baby who was having trouble settling, and whose parents spoke Hindi at home. When Ola spoke to the baby in Hindi, she thought that her pronunciation was a bit rusty. Nonetheless, the baby stopped crying and started eating. Ola says, “The parents were so happy!”
Ola loves to teach the children to sing and dance in different languages. She says, “Singing makes it easy to learn.”
Because of her long service at GECC there are many people in our community who know her. “When I go to the mall, people who are now at University recognise me and ask if I remember them. They’ve changed, but as soon as they say their name, I do remember them.”
It’s not just the older siblings that Ola has cared for in some families; it’s the older generation! Ola’s own niece attended the centre when she was young. Her daughter, Ola’s great niece graduated from GECC’s pre-school room in 2016 and is now at school.
Recently GECC has begun a new early morning and late afternoon routine that they call, “family grouping.” Instead of children going straight to their aged-based rooms, they all spend time together in the toddlers’ room. This allows for siblings of different ages to spend some time together. Everyone enjoys this, especially the babies. The babies love seeing the older children and they’re less likely to cry when their parents leave the centre. In the afternoons, “family grouping” has a calming effect on all the children and allows parents to streamline the pickup process.
Find out more about Ginninderra Early Childhood Centre
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