Susan Johnson embarks on 2022 without Altona Kindergarten after a lifetime of connection
The Sector > Workforce > Susan Johnson embarks on 2022 without Altona Kindergarten after a lifetime of connection

Susan Johnson embarks on 2022 without Altona Kindergarten after a lifetime of connection

by Freya Lucas

February 03, 2022

Early childhood education and care (ECEC) professionals like Susan Johnson are rare, and embody a true sense of connection to individual services like Altona Kindergarten


“My mother was actively involved with other interested families in setting up Altona Kindergarten. As a tiny child I joined Mrs Rice together with a number of other children at the brand-new kindergarten,” Ms Johnson explained. 


Although a young Sue “wasn’t quite so enamoured” by her early kindergarten experiences (one day taking advantage of a gap under the gate to find her way back home to mum), she quickly settled in.


When she became a mother to three children, all of them attended the kindergarten under the tutelage of Miss Bacon, and Sue’s career in the sector began.


“I had always wanted to be a teacher and was lucky enough to secure a job as a ‘Kindergarten Assistant’- firstly at Altona, followed by a stint of ‘Relief Assistant’, then back to Altona and then on to Somers Parade Kindergarten,” she shared.


As the new millennium dawned, Sue was to face some challenging adjustments in her life. First she was transferred from employment by the local council to the new ECMS (which under CEO Carol Allen set up their initial head office at Altona Kindergarten), and then her husband sadly passed away. 


“The pay was hardly enough to continue raising a family. I had always wanted to be a teacher and felt I had enough knowledge to give back to the children. So in 2001 (aged 50) I took the plunge and gained a place at Melbourne University and earned my Bachelor of Early Childhood Education,” she shared.


To understand Sue’s lifelong Altona Kindergarten connection, and with Altona for that matter, one must consider how many families she‘s touched over the years and how much she is loved in return.


“It is great to walk down the street and be greeted by toots of horns and waves from people you know on bikes on the other side of the road,” she said.


In her final year of association with Altona Kindergarten Sue taught a grandchild of a couple of former Altona Kindergarten and Altona Primary School classmates (whose children attended both kinder and school with Sue’s children). 


“It makes me feel very special to think I might have had an impact on their lives,” she said.


Reflecting on whether children have changed much over the years, Sue appreciates the positive and negative impacts of modern living, citing the many varied experiences more childcare offers, albeit at the expense of simpler experiences that captivated children in bygone days.


“Often, they have great general knowledge and can be very world aware, however emotionally there is much evidence of more stress and anxiety in children. We also have children who have not been allowed to take risks and are far less resilient than children were in years gone by.”


Approaching her retirement day, which came late in 2021, Sue said she had “all sorts of feelings spinning around her head,” thinking about how much she will miss the children and her colleagues, as well as the resident rabbits and magpies who returned recently with their babies.


In her retirement, however, she will not miss the early morning wake ups or the vast amounts of paperwork, and plans to read, garden, spend time with her granddaughters and their school activities, finding a choir to join and volunteer with Meals on Wheels.


“Leaving the kindergarten in the safe hands of Rebecca, Donna and Arlene makes it a little easier for me,” she said. 


“Altona Kindergarten is not about me, it is about the team and I have been honored to have been part of this team throughout the good and the bad. We have always supported one another and I will miss the daily contact with the team.”


To learn more about Altona Kindergarten please see here

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