Educator Alana Hunter loves her little charges for their quirkiness and the satisfaction of watching them grow under her care.
And it turns out they and their families love her back just as much: she’s been named the family day carer of the year for this region.
Mrs Hunter said she was excited, humbled, shocked and amazed to have received a 2018 Excellence in Family Day Care Award.
“I had so many different thoughts: I was so excited, I was very humbled, I was shocked, I was amazed,” she said.
“I thought, ‘Wow, my families love me enough to nominate me, and not only that, I actually won’.”
Mrs Hunter has been an early childhood educator for about 18 years, starting in family day care then spending some time in preschool and long day care settings.
She returned to family day care about 12 months ago, to have more time at home with her own children, who are 15 and 8 years old.
“I’ve just always loved working with children,” she said.
“I just love the little people that they are: they’re so quirky, they have some wonderful things they come out with, they’re so funny, so loving and caring.
“I love being part of somebody developing and growing, and being an important part of their lives.”
Mrs Hunter said that, having been in the profession for so long, she had watched many of her first charges grow into adults, and still had a “very special bond” with many.
“I had a little one who got his licence last year … one went to high school last year but still comes running up for a hug when we see each other,” she said.
As for what it took to be a great educator, Mrs Hunter said it took patience and empathy.
“More than anything, you really have to love your job and the children,” she said.
“You need to know that when you drop your child off, they’re being loved and being looked after just as well as they would be at home.”
Mrs Hunter is registered with Gunnedah Family Day Care, which she said was “such a supportive scheme to its educators”.
She now goes in the running to be named as a national finalist in the awards.
Family Day Care Australia chief executive officer Andrew Paterson said the awards shone a light on the important role family day care played.
“The Excellence in Family Day Care Awards highlight the special contribution that educators like Alana make to the lives of the children in their care,” Mr Paterson said.
“To be chosen as a regional winner is not only a reward for Alana’s dedication to providing quality early childhood education and care, it also underlines the relationship that Alana has with the children in her care.”
National finalists will be announced on August 6, and the National Educator of the Year will be named on September 6.