Since originally graduating in 1985 with a Diploma of Early Childhood Deni Harden (left) has shown that continuing study and a passion for teaching can pay big personal dividends. Starting out after graduation as a Preschool teacher in Wellington, New Zealand, allowed Deni to gain valuable experience at the start of her career.
“I loved my first teaching positions. The Directors of these first Centre’s were fantastic mentors for me. They highlighted for me the importance of community based, accessible, affordable preschool for all children. They had a strong emphasis on music as well as using the outdoors environment as a major component in the educational curriculum.”
Having worked part time in Bundanoon Preschool for 2 years, Deni was inspired to apply for the Director's position. “I could see that there was a well established team, a reputation for excellence and a strong focus on the outdoors, play and engagement with the wider community.”
“Working with an amazingly passionate team of educators, who give their all, every day of the year has inspired me to continue to seek the joy of play, hands on learning and the enrichment that comes from engaging with the wider community. Seeing children develop their confidence as they feel a sense of belonging with their class and community.”
“Watching children work as a team to solve a problem, and to discover something new inspires me to continue creating nurturing, inspiring and creative learning environments which lead children to cooperate, collaborate, inquire, be brave, challenge themselves, discover and celebrate!”
“I am inspired by people like Richard Louv, author of "Last child in the Woods" who challenge societal trends and encourage educators to take risks, to question the 'status quo' and to encourage children and families to get outside and reconnect with nature.”
The School has strong connections with local Aboriginal Elders who regularly visit and share bush walking, bush tucker, song, dance and art experiences with the staff and children. ”My team support my philosophy of hands on, outdoor learning, which has also been widely accepted by the families of our community.”
A major turning point in Deni’s teaching career was attending a Sensory Processing workshop presented by Genevieve Jerebs. “This workshop transformed the way my staff and I viewed children and their challenging behaviours and gave us multiple effective strategies to support children and their families. Our daily routine and teaching programme was revolutionised through applying this knowledge.”
Deni was recently awarded the ASG National Excellence in Teaching Award (EC) for Leadership and will use the scholarship money to attend the Forest Schools training course in the UK in May, 2013. ”I look forward to sharing this new knowledge and inspiration with other educators and community members.”
Deni has this advice for all education graduates;“ Dare to be exceptional! Find an educational theorist who motivates and inspires you, find out everything you can about their theories and how they relate to everyday practice.
Find a mentor who you can spend time with regularly - to work with, to ask questions and advice, to try out new ideas. Be brave - don't allow fear to constrain the experiences you offer to your class.
Take Risks and encourage your children to challenge themselves, to be brave and to learn about safety through taking risks.”
Deni holds a Master of Education (Inclusive Education), Graduate Certificate in Education (Inclusive Education) and Diploma of Teaching (Early Childhood) all from Charles Sturt University.