This month, we’re featuring Emma Hulls—one of our dedicated teachers from Bear Park Dunedin! Emma is truly immersed in our culture here at Bear Park, inspired by the Reggio Approach. She’s a vital member of our teaching team and fosters a culture of curiosity and empowered learning in children. She shares some of her experiences as a Bear Park teacher below.
Choosing a career with Bear Park
Emma: While I was studying early childhood education, I read about the Reggio Emilia philosophy and immediately felt a deep connection with all it stood for. I discovered that there was a centre in my home town of Dunedin that was strongly influenced by this philosophy so I got in touch with Bear Park and asked if I would be able to complete one of my practicums with them.
From here, I became planning cover. When I was ready to return to fulltime work following my studies and staying at home with my children, I was offered a fulltime position as a teacher in the Infants and Toddlers centre. This was a wonderful opportunity for me to build meaningful relationships with the children and their whanau, and also experience—first-hand—exactly what it takes to be an educator for these tiny humans. It was a very special time for me—one that I learned so much from and I look back on with fondness and love.
What makes Bear Park a great place to build a long-term career in teaching?
Emma: Whilst I was working in the Infants and Toddler centre, I was asked if I would like to move into the Preschool. Initially, I was unsure as I really enjoyed my role with the under 2’s but the Pedagogical team had recognised something in me and knew that I was ready for a change. I decided that this was something I had to try and considered it a good move in my career to teaching all ages of Preschool children.
I thoroughly enjoyed teaching this new age group, being very different from what I was accustomed to. Teaching this new group meant using different strategies and finding other tools in my toolbox to be an ‘over 2’ teacher.
The Pedagogical team’s vision enabled me to challenge myself by moving rooms and age groups. I feel this has made me a better teacher. I have respect for what it takes to be an Infant and Toddler teacher—and have a love for teaching that age group—but I am also comfortable and very happy teaching in the Preschool age range too.
“Bear Park is like a family to me...I love what I do and I wouldn’t want to do it anywhere else!.”
Why is it important to have the support of an experienced pedagogical mentor?
Emma: The Pedagogical team visits us in Dunedin every couple of months and while they are here, they review our environment, our documentation, and other aspects of our daily practice. The team offers support, advice, suggestions and feedback on their findings and deliver this in a positive and productive way—face to face—before they leave Dunedin.
I also know that Emma, Leigh or Sue are at the end of an email or phone line. I can get in contact with ANYTHING, and I know that they can point me in the right direction or offer the support that I am looking for.
It is a great comfort knowing that there is a team of people here to support us and we are not in this on our own. It is a huge benefit that we have this support; the team have all been teachers and they know what it is all about. The Pedagogical team has years of experience, which means they know what they are talking about.
Bear Park is like a family to me—I have friends, as well as colleagues here, and I enjoy going to work every day. I have a passion for early childhood teaching; I love what I do and I wouldn’t want to do it anywhere else!
How have you been supported in your career growth as a teacher?
Emma: I have worked for Bear Park for nearly six years and in that time I have had the opportunity to work in three different areas of the Centre. This has enabled me to actually move through the different rooms with a group of children who started with me in the Fantail Room. This has been very special and I feel privileged to have been able to witness the learning and development journey of several children and build special relationships with them and their whanau.
I was also promoted to Head Teacher of the Preschool, which has had a huge influence on my career. The professional development opportunities that have been offered to me, as a leader and as a teacher, have been and continue to be informative and extremely valuable for my personal and career growth.