Creating innovation in everyday learning: an educator's story

Early Childhood Educator Niki Ficsor always had a passion for guiding and leading children to help them reach their full potential, an interest which started in her teens.

Niki was the winner of the NSW Department of Education Early Childhood Educator Award, in the 2019 NSW/ACT Young Achiever Awards. The award recognises outstanding educators who demonstrate achievements in helping children achieve their potential and fostering high educational outcomes.

Niki was nominated for her keen interest and skills in generating innovative practices, creative programming and quality resource development for young children.

Niki’s path to becoming an educator began at the age of 16 when she started coaching children’s gymnastics. Having a natural knack for working with kids and inspired by their energy, she then worked at an Out of School Hours Care (OSHC) service for 2-3 years before applying to work in an early childhood education (ECE) service.

At the age of 25, Niki’s now in her fourth year working in the sector she loves. Placing no borders on her approach to innovative teaching, Niki is committed to delivering an exciting and positive play-based learning environment through the many different programs she has successfully initiated.

“We always encourage each other at work and we all have a passion for what we do. Until I was nominated for the award, I didn’t quite realise just how much I loved doing what I do. I was taken aback, but also very proud,” said Niki.

She applies her passion and a personal touch to each program she works on. With a special interest in sustainability, Niki takes her children on exciting adventures focused on each sustainable practice within her centre. These include getting the children involved in composting and saving food scraps, worm farming, growing and cooking their own produce, learning about bees, monthly grounds clean-ups, discussions on water and electricity usage, recycling and more.

Niki’s respect and passion for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and culture is also reflected through her programs and practices. By establishing relationships with an Aboriginal community education leader and Sydney Olympic Park Education Centre, Niki developed a program that covered Aboriginal history, cultural identities, art and stories. After she successfully piloted the program, the Sydney Olympic Park team were so impressed that she was asked to present it again to 25 other educators from across Sydney.

With a collective and collaborative mindset, Niki stresses the importance of all educators sharing their knowledge and programming ideas with colleagues, other ECE services and TAFE students to encourage quality learning and practice.

Reflecting on quality in early childhood education, Niki observed different services and educators over time to develop her own personal style and preferences when it comes to nurturing a child.

“There’s a difference between teaching and guiding and caring and nurturing – the most important thing is the passion you have, and the strength of the connections with each child. Going the extra mile for a child’s development and growth is first and foremost,” said Niki.

Soon to complete her degree in Early Childhood Teaching, Niki will continue to dedicate herself to the children she works with every day. Her message to other educators? “Put teamwork first, and highlight your colleague’s efforts with positivity and encouragement,” said Niki.

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