Penny Harding.

Educating the young minds of the Bay

They don’t come much more dedicated than Penelope Harding, the Browns Bay local has been a Senior Teacher at East Coast Bays Community Crèche since its inception in November 1984.  Before working at the crèche, she taught primary school children for four and half years.  Penny grew up the in Bays and still lives locally with her husband Vince and their two dogs. Together they have two children and three grandchildren who all live locally too. Penny kindly answered a few questions this month about her job as an educator. Courtney Bennett of Channel Mag and the Browns Bay Mag put these questions to her in September.

COURTNEY BENNETT: Why are you passionate about education?
My mother was a teacher and so were my Grandfather and his father and grandfather before of him.  Education has always been a prominent feature in my life.  Discussions around quality teaching and positive outcomes for children have been features of my life for as long as I can remember.  These conversations are still going on today with both my sister and daughter being teachers as well – seems to be in the blood!   I believe it is the right of every child to be able to access and participate in high quality learning environments.  

CB: What keeps someone in a job like yours for 30 years?
Passion, inspiration, ongoing professional learning and of course the fabulous team I have the good fortune to work with.

CB: Did you always know you wanted to work with kids?
I’ve always enjoyed children and I used to love babysitting for neighborhood families when I was a teenager.   Growing up though I’d always wanted to be a lawyer, something to do with Perry Mason I think. However circumstances at the time prevented me from pursuing that dream so I decided to be a teacher instead.  Something I have never regretted doing although I’m still a great fan of lawyer T.V. programmes.

CB: How has the industry changed in that time?
When I first started teaching it was considered a profession but since then early childhood education seems to have evolved into an industry for some parts of the sector. Personally I consider myself and our team here at the crèche to be members of the teaching profession.  Early Childhood Education has changed and evolved so much over the last 30 years it would be difficult to comment on every aspect. If had to mention any I would say the provision of bulk funding by the Ministry of Education in the late eighties was of huge significance for The Crèche because it meant we could pay our teachers a reasonable wage and remove the burden of covering the cost of running our programme from our families.  The introduction of Te Whaariki (our early childhood curriculum) in the late nineties was of huge significance for early childhood education as a whole.  To me it was validation and recognition of early childhood education, acknowledging it in its own right as a standalone sector within the broader education system.

CB: What does it take to be a truly good educator?
Courage, dedication, energy, curiosity, openness and eagerness to learn, an appreciation of diversity, kindness, compassion, a sense of humour...

CB: What do children teach us adults?
All of the above

CB: What’s the best part about working in Browns Bay?
The people, the shops, the wonderful cafes and of course our beautiful beach and surroundings.

CB: What do you do in your spare time?
Enjoy spending time with family and friends, walking my dogs, reading, studying history and following my favourite sports teams and players.

CB: If I wasn’t at ECBCC I would be….
Still learning, advocating for children and supporting the underdog.


By Courtney Bennett

Channel Magazine: Issuu 59 October 2015

Shore People articles by Courtney Bennett