Wilder adventures ahead for teacher

James Gray Kindergarten’s head teacher Eleanor Wilder is retiring at the end of this term.

James Gray Kindergarten’s head teacher Eleanor Wilder is retiring at the end of this term, stepping down from a role she has held – and loved – for 22 years.

“I still have the energy but I’m starting to feel a bit older now and friends in my age group are starting to retire and say how wonderful it is,” she said.

“It’s been so satisfying to come to work every day and it’s been a lovely environment to work in, but I just think it’s time.  I’m ready to go.”

From the time she was a child herself, Eleanor seemed destined for a career in early childhood education.

Born in Hastings, she grew up on a central Hawke’s Bay farm and was “always really keen on little children and babies”.

“I used to harass the poor neighbour next door to our farm and want to help her out with her baby and apparently I was quite bossy,” she said.

After leaving high school she trained at Wellington Kindergarten Teachers’ College from 1972-1973 and gained a New Zealand Kindergarten Federation Union diploma, taking her first job at Waterloo Kindergarten in Lower Hutt at 19.

Over a career spanning nearly five decades she has taught children at six other North Island kindergartens, been a senior teacher in Auckland, facilitated an adult education programme at Auckland Teachers’ Training College, and taken time out to travel and have her own two children.

“I love working with young children,” she said.  “There’s a satisfaction in seeing children grow in knowledge, skills and a love for learning.  And I love their fun, I love their ideas.  When you’re with young children there’s just such a warmth and love of being.”

Eleanor moved to Cambridge from Auckland in pursuit of “a more rural lifestyle” with her family in 1999 to become James Gray Kindergarten’s head teacher, never imagining she would see out her career here.

“The families, children and staff I’ve worked with, who have all had that same commitment and passion for early childhood, are the reason I’ve stayed so long,” she said.  “It’s been a lovely, lovely place to work.”

A passionate believer in the “crucial importance” of early childhood education, Eleanor counts the launch of the Te Whāriki early childhood education curriculum in 1996 and winning pay parity with primary school teachers in 2002 among her career highlights.

She’s also proud of helping James Gray receive Enviroschools accreditation and of the endorsement she and her staff have received from the Education Review Office over many years.

“ERO sees the quality of our programme and we have always succeeded in having good reviews,” she said.

Now, she is excited about new adventures ahead: singing, joining the ukulele club, gardening, road trips, making new friends and relief teaching at kindergartens around the Waikato.

Eleanor said kindergarten teaching had been an “amazing job”.

“I couldn’t have chosen a better career for me and for my personality and the way I like to live my life,” she said.

Cambridge people are invited to farewell Eleanor at James Gray Kindergarten on Friday, April 30 at 2.30pm.  Please RSVP to jamesgray@kindergarten.org.nz or phone 827 4714.

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