Children develop quickly between the ages of three and five and make many major breakthroughs in their use of language and motor skills, as well as developing their social and intellectual skills. A quiet achiever who delights in working with this age group is Suzie Lawson at Gyndarna preschool in Dareton, on the Murray river near Mildura, vic.
Gyndarna means “a happy place for children” in Barkindji language and Gyndarna Preschool is certainly that according to Suzie.
Suzie loves her job so much she has worked at Gyndarna Preschool for the last 22 years. In that time she has seen two generations of families come through the preschool.
“I have seen a few generations come through. I have seen all my brother’s kids grow up, and I have taught all of them,” Suzie says.
“My eldest daughter will be 20 this year, so another generation will be coming through soon. This is the same building that my mother brought me to when they established the preschool for the Save The Children fund. It has been operating here now for over 60 years.”
Suzie had experience raising her own brothers before she started at the preschool.
“I dropped out of school early and I brought up my little brothers. I went from there and walked into this job.”
Suzie says through her experience she is acutely aware of major developmental changes happening to the children during these crucial years.
“I love working with this age group, which is three to five year olds,” she says. “You can see such differences in their learning – from being babies to this age. There are huge leaps in learning during these years.”
Gyndarna Preschool is licensed to have 42 kids. They have a three-year-old group and a four-year-old group. They are the only preschool in the town of about 700 people.
“It is a big Aboriginal community. We have a mission here. I am Nanna and Aunty to a lot of kids,” Suzie says.
She says she has seen many changes over the years, in curriculums, models of early-childhood teaching and the requirements placed on preschools.
“There have been many changes in what we teach over the years, but I have worked here so long that I know what works and what doesn’t work with Aboriginal kids.
“I guess a lot of the kids look to me to give them the do’s and don’ts and some firm direction,” Suzie laughs.
Dareton community member Kate Wilkinson says Suzie is a “quiet achiever in the community”.
“She has raised her own family and seen that almost every local child gets some preschool education, showing up for work every day through some real hard times,” Kate says.
“Education is still a struggle for people in this community and I reckon Suzie has made a positive impact on so many lives and the ripple effect on their children in turn. She is quiet and very shy and would never put herself forward for any sort of recognition, but she has stood quietly and strong for 20 years and made a real difference for her people.”