Carol ends 20-year teaching stretch 

Carol Tancock pulling Jackson Brier in the wagon. On swings Clara Del Monte and Remy and Maya McKinnon.

After 20 years at Cambridge Kindergarten Carol Tancock has retired from full-time teaching.

Carol arrived at the kindergarten in 2002 and was head teacher until last year, when a bout of ill health prompted her to give up the top job.

Now working for Waikato Kindergarten Association as a relief teacher, she feels happy about her decision to “move aside and let some of the younger ones take over”.

For Carol, kindergarten has always been “all about family” and the community support she has received over the past two decades has been a career highlight.

“Parents and caregivers have never lacked the passion and the drive to do some great things for their children… there have been wonderful relationships between teachers and parents and extended whanau,” she said.

Cambridge Kindergarten staff members (from left) Naomi Simmonds, Elaine Jennings, Carol Tancock, Tracy Shann and Karen Rutherford.  

Hamilton born Carol grew up watching her mother working to advance the New Zealand kindergarten movement.

“My mother, Shirley Muir, was president of the Waikato Kindergarten Association for many years and vice president of the New Zealand Kindergarten Association, supporting the building of many kindergartens in the Waikato and throughout New Zealand,” she said.  “So that’s probably where I got my passion from.”

Carol’s connection with Cambridge Kindergarten stretches back 47 years. She worked there as “a very green graduate” from 1975-1977, after becoming one of the first students to graduate from the University of Waikato’s Diploma of Kindergarten Teaching course.

After that she took off to see the world.  She met her husband Peter in Austria in 1979 and the couple had two children, Phernne and Guy, before returning to New Zealand in 1998.

Since 2002 she’s seen some big changes, including a “huge increase” in paperwork, the introduction of 20 hours of free early childhood education funding for students, pay parity with primary school teachers, and kindergartens’ move to offering full-day care in line with school hours.

One innovation she is particularly passionate about is Enviroschools, a programme aimed at integrating environmental education into schools, which launched nationwide in 2001.

Maya McKinnon, Remy McKinnon, Jed Harrison, Phoebe Slade, William Stout, Carol Tancock, Jude Tancock (Carol’s grandson), Jackson Brier, Skye Slade and Nash Harrison. 

A strong believer in play-based learning, she has always loved the kindergarten’s half-acre garden and is proud to have been involved in “completely revamping it” with an emphasis on sustainability and adventurous play.

“If we don’t teach our children at this age to take risks and understand risk taking, what kind of adults are we going to have?” she said.     Encouraging them to take risks at their own level is the best thing we can do for them.”

She’s also proud of the Education Review Office reports the kindergarten has received over the years.

“We’ve always had the highest level of review points and I can’t see it stopping,” she said.

Semi-retired teacher Dianne Gwynne described Carol as “a very caring, solid anchoring kind of person” who loved the children and community and had done “some wonderful eco-friendly stuff over the decades”.

Carol is now looking forward to semi-retirement.

“My garden beckons and my sewing machine beckons and I love to read, so I’m looking forward to having a bit more time to put to that and spending a bit more time with my husband and children and grandchildren,” she said.

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