VEYA Finalist Series: ECT and Educator of the Year
The Sector > Quality > In The Field > VEYA Finalist Series: introducing the Educator and ECT of the Year contenders

VEYA Finalist Series: introducing the Educator and ECT of the Year contenders

by Freya Lucas

September 08, 2023

The Victorian Early Years Awards (VEYA) are an opportunity for the best and brightest of the Victorian early childhood sector, and those in allied professions, to be recognised for the exceptional contributions they make to the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector.


Finalists were announced on Early Childhood Educators Day, 6 September, with the winners to be announced at the 2023 VEYA ceremony on 9 November 2023. 


Now in their 18th year, the awards are an opportunity to showcase the exceptional work being done in the Victorian ECEC sector, with finalists exemplifying the vital work happening in the ECEC sector. 


To ensure the finalists are all equally represented The Sector has elected to run a series of stories showcasing each finalist. 


The piece below highlights the finalists for both Educator of the Year and Early Childhood Teacher (ECT) of the Year. 


Educator of the Year 


Finalist: Sue Bullock Kinglake Ranges Children’s Centre


Ms Bullock is the Director of Kinglake Ranges Children’s Centre, and has implemented pedagogical and organisational reforms to completely transform the service, using community data, evidence-based practice, and empathetic leadership to improve outcomes for children, her team, and the overall quality rating of the regional service.


A strong believer in child-led learning and the importance of connecting with nature and building strong relationships, she has effectively managed a strategic critical reflection program and implemented the Phoenix Cups Framework, which highlights healthy relationships as a key driver of children’s wellbeing and learning outcomes. 


Ms Bullock also initiated the centre’s award-winning bush kinder and steered the organisational culture to emphasise trust, respect and empathy.

Australian Early Development Centre data now shows that children attending the centre rate above state and national averages for school readiness, with an overall decrease in vulnerability from 24 per cent in 2015 to 7.8 per cent in 2021, a testament to the hard work of the team and Ms Bullock as their leader.


Finalist: Brittany Hood Edithvale Family and Children’s Centre


Ms Hood is a senior educator and room-based education and care leader at Edithvale Family and Children’s Centre. As an integral member of the service’s leadership team, she is deeply involved in collaborative problem solving and creating what she calls ‘brave spaces’, where she fosters an environment for fellow educators to take risks and be open to challenges.


A specific focus for Ms Hood is on designing learning environments that encourage families to engage in dialogue with educators. For example, after conducting an assessment, it was determined that moving children’s lockers into the rooms increased parental confidence regarding the space, which increased their willingness to talk to educators about their child’s learning journey.


Ms Hood is enthusiastic about building staff capacity to create robust, safe, and engaging learning environments. An exemplary educator, she models and champions collaborative conversations with families and strives to achieve positive outcomes for the children in her care.


Finalist: Wida Tausif Glen Education Chelsea Kindergarten


As an educator and a children’s author, Ms Tausif encourages the 3-5 year olds in her care to use their imaginations and explore their ideas through discussions and dramatic play. She incorporates an understanding of cultural diversity in her sessions, using real life examples, including from her Persian culture, to illustrate the ways in which people are unique. 


Her innovative approach to working with children involves multi modal learning, incorporating interactive games, videos, and animations. These tools and strategies allow children to engage with content in different ways, while improving their literacy, numeracy and cultural awareness.

Ms Tausif strives to implement new and empowering methods that adapt to the evolving world of early childhood education. With a focus on social-emotional development, she ensures all children in her care feel a sense of self-worth and pride. Her adventurous approach brings her educational visions to life, which has a remarkable impact on the whole community.


ECT of the Year


Finalist: Rachael Gemmill Glen Education Glover Street Kindergarten


Ms Gemmill has a Masters of Inclusion and a commitment to cultivating a workplace culture that truly embraces inclusion and equality, paired with a determination to ensure that all children are provided with a quality education regardless of their support needs. 


This commitment, amongst other things, has supported her to lead the team at Glen Education Glover Street Kindergarten to exceed in all 7 areas of the National Quality Standard for education and care. 


Thanks to her endeavours, more children with complex needs have been able to access support, resulting in improved outcomes.

Central to her work is building strong social/emotional skills, and as such she has introduced the daily practice of gratitude, empathy, and mindfulness to support children’s ability to self-regulate across 16 of Glen Education’s services.

She led the project across the organisation, gathering data from services, families, and local community members, providing professional development opportunities for the staff involved in delivering the practice, and engaging more than 1,200 children to teach them evidence-based strategies to build a toolbox to support their wellbeing.


Finalist: Jacinta Anderson Latrobe City Council


Throughout her career Ms Anderson has demonstrated an unwavering passion and commitment to the education and welfare of young children, especially those from vulnerable backgrounds. In her role at Moe Heights Preschool, she sees it as her vocation to help vulnerable children reach their fullest potential.

In dealing with the adverse circumstances that many children in Moe experience, including trauma, family violence and poverty, Ms Anderson advocated for higher staff-to-child ratios to ensure children are being supported to develop language and social/emotional skills. By using all available supports, she creates an environment where children’s learning is maintained and those with additional needs are supported to participate fully.

She constantly seeks new ways to engage her students and make learning a fun and fulfilling experience. With a deep understanding of the developmental stages of young children, she provides a nurturing environment that promotes growth and development, whilst developing strategies to improve family engagement and participation.


Finalist: Michelle Ives Glenroy Central Kindergarten


Glenroy Central Kindergarten is a multicultural community in an area where many face disadvantage. One of Ms Ives’ fundamental goals is for every child to develop the skills and dispositions for lifelong learning whilst in her care. She strives to ensure they have the right support to take full advantage of their kindergarten education and to successfully transition to school.

In adapting to families from a variety of cultures, languages and customs, she uses visual displays and incorporates relevant cultural elements into the programming and documentation of children’s learning.

Renowned in the community for her welcoming program, Ms Ives is celebrated for the strong support and advocacy she provides to families, and her success in making the kindergarten years an opportunity for children to develop critical life skills.


$15,000 in prize money for professional development funding


Award finalists were selected by a panel of judges following a thorough application and shortlisting process.


Winners receive grants of $15,000 towards professional development or to further develop their program or initiative.


A separate Minister’s Award winner will be selected by the Minister for Early Childhood and Pre-Prep Ingrid Stitt from finalists across all categories as a special commendation.


For more information on the awards, refer to the Victorian Early Years Awards website.

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