Employee of the Year ~ Vanessa Callum, Centre Manager at Castle Hill Montessori Academy
Vanessa Callum, Centre Manager at Castle Hill, has had a big year. Not only has she successfully led her team through the Assessment and Rating process, where they received an Exceeding rating in all seven quality areas, but she’s also been recognised as Montessori Academy’s Employee of the Year! In our latest staff interview, Vanessa shares her love of Montessori and early childhood education, and why she believes both are crucial for a child’s future development.
What inspired you to become a Montessori Educator?
I first heard about Montessori Education when I found out the Castle Hill campus was being developed close to where I live. As an early childhood educator, I was intrigued by this different style of education, so I decided to research what makes Montessori so special. I was immediately interested in the process, from teachers acting as ‘guides’ in the classroom, to allowing children the freedom to select and work through their own activities at their own pace. I found that the independence offered by the Montessori environment strongly aligned with my own teaching philosophy, and I was excited to join a Montessori educational team! Soon after, I was lucky enough to start part-time at North Parramatta Montessori Academy where I worked alongside Kellie Chahroura, Munira Syed and the wonderful team of educators. This is where I first observed the Montessori approach, and witnessed how valuable it is for a young child’s education and life skills.
Why do you believe that Montessori education is so effective?
Montessori education is effective because it builds skills that allow children to be in control of their behaviours and emotions. By learning these skills, they learn how to partake in positive social interactions, and to be thoughtful towards others. Also, as children work at their own developmental pace, each child is stimulated in their learning, ensuring no child is left behind.
What do you believe is the most important ingredient for children’s education?
I believe that feeling welcomed and accepted are the key ingredients to helping children feel confident; allowing them to make decisions for themselves. When you feel accepted, and are in a positive and harmonious environment, you are more willing to want to learn, participate, and socialise with your peers. This is an excellent foundation for a child’s education.
What has been your most fond memory at Montessori Academy so far?
I have so many wonderful memories from my four years with Montessori Academy! I enjoy that every day I can walk into the quiet, self-controlled classrooms, and that the children are happy focusing on their work. It’s always a rewarding feeling watching the students embrace the Montessori work cycle and begin concentrating for extended periods of time. Each year, I grow incredibly close to the Castle Hill students, and it is always hard to say goodbye when they graduate. However, our task as early childhood educators is only a temporary one, preparing young minds for a future of learning. If we do our task with passion and love, our students will continue to be life-long learners, and go on to achieve great things.
Any advice for other Montessori Academy educators?
It is important to embrace the Montessori Method whole heartedly and ensure that your daily practices in the classroom actively represent your own personal teaching philosophy for early childhood education. By both enjoying, and believing in what you are doing, you will give your students the best possible start to their education.