Little fish are sweet: Long-term educator Maddie reflects on ECEC career with St Nicks
The Sector > Provider > General News > Little fish are sweet: Long-term educator Maddie reflects on ECEC career with St Nicks

Little fish are sweet: Long-term educator Maddie reflects on ECEC career with St Nicks

by Freya Lucas

January 09, 2023

Madeline ‘Maddie’ Ingold has spent the past 15 years in early childhood education and care (ECEC) with the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle and during that time she has positively impacted the lives of hundreds of children and families.


Ms Ingold was a part of the initial setup of St Nicholas Early Education (St Nicks) curriculum and philosophy when the agency first launched in 2015 and has since played a valuable role as an Early Childhood Teacher and Educational Leader across a number of its centres, including in her current role at St Nicholas Branxton.


Getting a start in ECEC


From a young age, Ms Ingold was noticed by family members and friends as someone who engaged with children well, and responded to them effectively. 


“I always enjoyed helping out and doting on my younger cousins,” she said. 


“Once I finished my HSC, I enrolled at the University of Newcastle to study a double degree in Primary Teaching, but was very unhappy doing so and felt I needed to gain some ‘life experience’ away from formal schooling. So, I took what was intended to be a gap year where I took on work in the hospitality industry, and loved the cooking, functions and food service side of things, but the split shifts I was not a fan of, so I re-evaluated what direction I was heading in and branched out into some voluntary work experience within schools and early education and care settings.”


Her time at St Nicks began in 2006 as a volunteer at the Singleton centre (then known as St Patrick’s Early Education Centre) after finishing her HSC in 2005. 


Taking a VET pathway 


Recognising that University wasn’t the way to go for her, Ms Ingold enrolled to study her Certificate III in Children’s Services at TAFE and undertook her final practical placement at St Patrick’s. 


“I completed my prac on a Friday and Fiona Wissink offered me a position to commence on the following Monday,” she explained.


Ms Ingold then completed her Diploma in Children’s Services through the International Child Care College as a traineeship with St Patrick’s while working full-time before completing her Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood) at The University of New England while maintaining her full time position. 


“I completed my degree in 2014 and around this time worked closely with Fiona and other members of the Diocese to commence on the planning journey of transitioning St Patrick’s to St Nicholas and continuing the growth and vision of developing more St Nicholas centres within the Diocese,” she explained. 


“In 2020, the opportunity presented itself to transfer to St Nicholas Branxton where I assisted with the set up/opening of the centre and have remained since. Throughout my time with St Nicholas, I have worked across all age groups and have operated in the roles as Room Assistant, Room Leader, Assistant Director, Nominated Supervisor and Educational Leader.”


As well as building her own career, she has mentored fellow educators from school-based trainees to university students and facilitated professional development during orientation weeks for newly established centres, at centre based staff meetings and agency-wide training sessions. 


Establishing a lasting legacy


While each day working in ECEC brings Ms Ingold new adventures and memories, one career highlight has been the establishment of an intergenerational learning program, inspired by the television series, ‘Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds’. 


“I contacted the Mercy Rest Nursing Home in Singleton, which was just a short 10-minute walk from the centre, to see if they would be interested in having the preschool children visit from time to time,” she explained. 


“This was received with such positivity and together we ventured on a journey of greatness! I would take the preschool children over to visit the residents of the home on a weekly basis and the transformation of the confidence witnessed within the children on how they engaged with and developed such meaningful relationships with the residents was outstanding.” 


“It was like they became residents themselves, knowing the staff and residents by name, knowing where everything was located and being involved in the daily activities such as singing, cooking and crafts. We even went on an outing to the Singleton Show together and celebrated Christmas together with a cooked Christmas lunch, carols and present exchange.”


The most humbling and rewarding part of the experience, she continued, was having the nursing staff comment about the changes that were being presented amongst the residents – some having improved mobility, some decreasing medications, some displaying an increase in patience and decrease in irritability, how one resident becoming reminiscent and nostalgic of how one of the pre-schoolers reminded her of her late son and how another resident came out of his room and joined in the activities for the first time in five years. 


“One of my preschoolers even invited his ‘special person’ to his birthday party and another family extended an invite to Christmas celebrations. We found that this intergenerational program helped people from diverse ages to develop friendships and a sense of connectedness and ultimately promoted social inclusion.”


Working to inspire others and evoke a sense of pride in the sector 


“I am proud of the educator I have become and continue to be,” Ms Ingold said. 


“I have learnt a lot about the ECEC sector, about child development, about leadership, life in general, the person I am and the gift I have to share.” 


“I am proud to know that I have made a difference to the lives of little ones and their families. I am proud of the rapport I have developed with families – I’m here as a support for them too, just as much as the children. I am proud I have found my ‘niche’ in life.”


When asked about her greatest motivation, and what keeps her going on the challenging days, Ms Ingold said “my greatest motivation would be reminding myself that being able to journey with such amazing ‘little humans’ and their families is to be viewed as a privilege.” 


“I have the opportunity to be a role model, a guide, a friend, a champion, an influential figure for our future generations and that responsibility doesn’t come lightly. I am fortunate to be able to share in the trials and tribulations and when I hear families relay stories about what their children have said about me at home, or how they have transferred some of my ‘catch phrases’ or ‘one liners’ within context at home or in the community, I think to myself, ‘job done!” 


“I relish in the fact that I can learn just as much from the children as they can learn from me. I simply just love ‘being’ in the moment and listening to the children and responding to their ideas in a partnership that you really can’t put a price tag on.”


She concluded her conversation by sharing some advice for those who are new to the ECEC sector. 


“As my late Grandfather would say, “little fish are sweet.” This resonates with me as you need to remember where you came from and that others have to take that journey too.” 


“You need to remember that no one knows everything. You need to always be ready to accept advice or direction from others. You can’t allow yourself to get to a point where you think you know it all and have all the answers. You are never too old to learn something new. You also need to remember that there is not only one way to get to the finishing line.”


“People work differently and have different skill sets and these need to compliment one another. We work in a team environment and cannot operate as a lone wolf so to speak. You need to remember that at the end of the day you are human, you are an impressionable role model and it is a privilege to play a part in shaping the lives of such young people.”


To learn more about St Nicks, please see here. To read the conversation with Ms Ingold in full, please see here

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