The township of Moranbah lies 190km southwest of Mackay and 790km northwest of Brisbane. Simply Sunshine Childcare is a community-based centre in the heart of rural Moranbah and was established in 1971 to cater to families with a variety of needs. Their focus is to provide a quality education and care program for all children who attend the service. With a licensed capacity of 80 children and 25 staff, they cater for children from 0–5 years and offer a Queensland Government-approved kindergarten program. An executive committee of parents run the centre in partnership with staff and other members.
Working in collaboration with the Department of Education, the centre was informed of the Mentoring Early Childhood Teachers (MECT) program. Moranbah is remote and opportunities to converse regularly with other early childhood teachers in the sector is challenging. The centre identified that this program would enable them to connect with other professionals in the sector and offer preservice teachers additional ongoing support outside the service with their study and practice.
The mentoring program has further strengthened the service's connection with others. The staff feel valued for their professionalism and know they are supported. Knowing they have a mentor to converse with regularly is reassuring. There is also a level of understanding and compassion for their evolving journey as an early childhood educator. They have someone else that can relate to the daily challenges and achievements that are experienced along the way.
The staff are continuing to engage in professional conversations via email or phone calls with their mentor teachers to share knowledge and reflect on their practice and study. During the mentoring program delivery, the staff came together twice per term to share in the professional learning sessions through an eLearn platform delivered and facilitated by the Central Queensland Lead Mentor. Additional presentations by the mentors participating in the program from both the Central Queensland and Metro regions were enlightening. These sessions were an opportunity to listen to guest speakers who discussed their learning journey in relation to the topic.
In all professional learning sessions, the staff were invited to ask questions and engage in professional discussions. Staff were also able to access the recording of the sessions and resources through Blackboard Collaborate for future reference. Staff valued these sessions and used them as a source of motivation. The sessions sparked further reflection and professional conversations and the acquired knowledge has continued to be shared across our service.
In the Professional Learning Program, topics discussed were in relation to the National Quality Standards. A webinar on early literacy skills provided resources and additional information supported the team to engage with families and strengthen children's literacy skills. Educators found all the topics very beneficial to their program delivery and studies.
Mentors have provided advice and feedback on a variety of topics, including behaviour guidance, environments, transitions and group times. Time management tips and support were provided by mentors to help the mentees at the service with study, program delivery, planning and documentation. Simply Sunshine Childcare educators have reflected on these engagements and indicated they are better prepared to continue with their studies and deliver a quality early childhood program as a result.
Due to the remote location of the service and the transience of the community, the community and the service may continue to face a shortage of experienced staff. The service has found the MECT program extremely beneficial for these preservice teacher's well-being. It has further supported and guided these preservice teachers to connect with other professionals in adjacent regions. Today's technology can support these engagements to more remote areas.
Simply Sunshine Childcare plans to continue the relationships with the mentors by encouraging the preservice teachers to engage with their mentors regularly. Team leaders will continue to support staff to build on their professional network within the community, the department and services within the region. Team leaders will endeavour to seek other opportunities and resources that may also contribute to each preservice teacher's professional journey. Simply Sunshine Childcare is ever so grateful that they were successful in the application. They appreciate and thank everyone who has dedicated their time to this program.
'The mentoring program supported and guided preservice teachers to connect with other professionals in adjacent regions and was extremely beneficial for their well-being.' – Simply Sunshine Childcare
Case studies and mentoring studies