Getting to know…Kat Wieczorek-Ghisso of Paisley Park Early Learning Centre

www.paisleypark.com.au

Your magical journey starts the minute you enter the grounds of Paisley Park. Our core concepts of Live, Love, Learn embedded in our philosophy permeate our serene surroundings while children play.

Tell us about yourself
I have always had a passion for learning, my own and others, which is why I pursued a career in Early Childhood Education 20 years ago. My commitment to ongoing study has resulted in having successfully completed three degrees and I am in the process of completing my PhD. Focused on the professional development of early educators, my PhD draws from my deep engagement in the industry supporting the learning of Australia’s first Early Childhood Curriculum, the Early Years Learning Framework.
I have extensive experience as an Early Childhood Educator in the provision of educational programs in both community and private sectors. I have been fortunate to develop relationships with parents, children and professionals in early intervention, which I thoroughly enjoy. Supporting children who have additional needs, or are gifted or talented is a passion of mine. That has evolved into a bigger focus on developing the professional skills of childhood educators. I also lecture in the academic space at several universities and have done so for over a decade.
I am also a mum to Sebastian 10 and Natalia 12. We are a very close family and are active in sports such as horse riding, kayaking or bike riding and taking family holidays in Australia and abroad.
What makes you so passionate about early learning in children?
I am passionate about how capable children are and how they approach any situation without fear or judgement. Children have an incredible capacity to learn and we are very fortunate to witness their discoveries. By connecting to their interests and providing opportunities to experiment further, we become the conduit for their lifelong learning. I consider that an incredible privilege.
Where is the centre located and how many children can you take?
The centre is located in Leichhardt, where Tiny Tots used to be on Lords Road behind the Baptist Church, on the corner opposite Kegworth Public School. We have completely renovated the space to represent the Paisley Park philosophy. Our boutique centre caters for a maximum of 24 children, 6 weeks to 6 years using an open planned approach, designed to respond to children’s individual strengths and emerging development.
Tell us about the centre and what you believe makes it unique?
We have a very particular philosophy that underpins our daily practices. At Paisley Park children can develop strong connections with our experienced educators and feel a strong sense of comfort, familiarity and belonging.
We have been very deliberate in our use of space, resources and furnishings. For us it is very important that the centre environment compliments the child’s home environment, therefore our use of colour, texture and furniture has been in keeping with this philosophy. We appreciate the length of time children spend in a care environment, therefore have committed to ensuring it feels like an extension to their home. To achieve this, we have purposely moved away from using bright colours and plastics and focused on a space where children feel relaxed and comfortable.
When families come to visit, they often comment on the way the centre feels and our use of natural materials. We have natural flooring and the use of low level furniture to provide clear visibility for children and to increase the feeling of space. We have also focused on including the use of resources that challenge children, such as that of real crockery and cutlery. We don’t have any plastic cups or plates so very young children are learning to be respectful and take care of belongings.
This trust in children extends to our outdoor environment. In our quest to achieve a park-like atmosphere, we have used timber, large rocks and boulders where children explore the natural landscape. We have also incorporated a nature strip with a veggie patch where we are currently growing celery, lettuce, and herbs, often used by our chef on site in the daily preparation of meals. We want our children to be exposed to sustainable, organic, and nutritional ingredients, which is reflected in our menu. We also have a number of pets including a guinea pig and a rabbit in a hutch, 6 finches in a large cage, and 2 axolotls all at child height. We facilitate learning experiences for children to develop the knowledge, respect and nurturing of living things.
What kind of educator has the experience passion and disposition that is most sought after?
The most important characteristic that I look for in an educator is having passion, drive and the desire to spend time with children. They need to respect children for being experts in their own right. The best educators I have met are those who have a natural ability with children, which far outweighs any level of education. You can’t teach someone to have a positive outlook and work ethic. When you come across a special educator with that sparkle in their eye you know immediately they are committed to develop collaborative relationships with the families that allows the free flow of information and communication.
Which aspect of the curriculum do you believe is the most important for little people? Does your curriculum vary from others in the local area?
At the core of our program is a focus on developing children’s confidence and strength of self and to understand and learn how to manage their emotions. We want to equip them with the ability to be strong in dealing with the kind of pressures that life will throw at them. If we develop children’s resilience they will be better equipped to problem solve when things go wrong. We know from our relationships with local schools that when children possess skills of independence, confidence and resilience they are in a better position to take on academic learning. We take school preparation seriously and implement a program that compliments the types of experiences that children will encounter in their first year of school, in keeping with the Early Years Learning Framework.
What can parents expect from the centre and engagement of their children?
The most important thing from the start is to develop a trusting relationship with the parents and an understanding of what is important to them for the child’s care. When parents first call, they meet Jo who handles all of our enquiries and provides a clear understanding of our centre. When parents visit they have the wonderful opportunity to meet our centre director, Bek, who has a deep passion for working with children and their families. Parents will see firsthand children engaging in a natural and flexible environment, that responds to their interests, strengths and skills.
We follow a very flexible routine, which means at any given time children are doing various things, and not necessarily at the same time. While some are playing, others are sleeping, eating or having one on one time with our educators. We are unhurried in our approach as we respect that each child has their own routine at home. We don’t profess to be experts in the way parents raise their children, but rather respond with complimentary approaches.
What have you learnt about yourself since becoming a mum?
I have learnt the importance of being patient with children and how to use their cues when making decisions about their health and wellbeing. As a first time mum with there were so many people offering advice and suggestions and I quickly discovered that they didn’t work for my child. I learnt that children aren’t identical and have very unique needs. Forming a deep relationship with your child to pick up on the cues they are communicating is vital.
Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration in people and nature, and particularly my children. I think they are incredible and they teach me something every day. I watch how they manage their day-to-day experiences and make it fun and enjoyable. I gain inspiration from nature such as the beach and the bush and observe how nature works and functions. I try to represent that in the learning environment such as sounds, the way someone has set up their stable, or how they have set up furniture outside. It makes me calm and peaceful so I like to replicate that in the children’s environment.
What makes you the happiest?
I am happy when I see others around me happy. My joy comes from the joy of others. I am very social and enjoy being out and about listening to people’s adventures, stories and experiences. I also enjoy imparting my knowledge and skills onto others and take great pride and reward in seeing their knowledge grow from something I have inspired them to do.
Favourite spots in the IW?
I like the cosmopolitan and robust Italian café experience that Norton St offers. I also enjoy architecture and the cultural significance it brings, therefore often find myself travelling to the Inner West and spending warm Spring or Autumn days lounging in the Café’s with friends and family.

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