Alison is the National Co-ordinator for the Christian Early Childhood Education Assn of Aotearoa (CECEAA).
A Chartered Accountant by training, Alison has worked as a Playcentre Supervisor, ECE teacher, Centre Manager and Community Ministries Pastor for Spreydon Baptist Church, Christchurch.
What was your early life like?
I was born in England at a time of social conflict – the miners’ strikes and the IRA bombings in England. I remember, during these times, the freedom of roaming alone as a young child through the countryside around my home at Ruddington, holidays to the seaside taking 11 hours to get there, jousting at Nottingham Castle and the annual Goose Fair.
While in my early teens we moved to Christchurch after the divorce of my parents. These early experiences of loss of home, country and whole family played a large influence on my passion and desire to support children and families who find themselves in difficult circumstances. New Zealand took a while to settle into. I remember marvelling at how warm it was even in winter, how amazing it was to get to the sea or mountains so quickly and how everyone had such big sections after the “Coronation St” type houses I was used to in Ruddington. It took a while to get used to the fact of travel with no motorways, few towns and so few people.
Describe your career path and jobs held?
After completing a B Com degree at Canterbury University, I studied and became a Chartered Accountant and member of the New Zealand Society of Accountants while working for a small accounting firm in public practice.
Following the birth of my three children, we moved to north Canterbury. While there I was introduced to the local playcentre and began studying for my Playcentre certificate. On returning to Christchurch I completed the Federation Play Centre Supervisors Certificate while attending playcentre with my children. Playcentre was my spur to the ECE world and I learnt a lot alongside my children. I worked as a Playcentre Supervisor for two years before being asked to relieve at my church’s early learning centre.
It was while working at Spreydon Baptist’s Early Learning Centre that I completed my Bachelor of Teaching ECE. I began at the centre as a reliever in May 1992, progressing to becoming a teacher and then Centre Manager from 1995 to 2006.
I was then appointed as a pastor responsible for Spreydon’s 14 large and citywide community services including the Early Learning Centre from 2007- 2010. Alongside this position, I worked as the National Co-ordinator for CECEAA from 1995 and still am in the same position.
An added responsibility today is as Manager of Cobham St Trust which provides rental units for seniors of limited means in my local community.
What is your current role and responsibilities?
As National Co-ordinator for CECEAA, I visit member services around the country, plan for and administer our national conference, write E updates and newsletters for members, organise and attend regional members’ gatherings, attend Early Childhood Federation meetings and Ministry of Education consultation group meetings. I am part of our CECEAA National Executive and attend meetings of the Executive quarterly.
As Cobham St Trust Manager, I liaise with tenants, oversee trust property and staff, plan for future expansion, liaise with others in the same sector, and attend to all legal and financial reporting and compliance.
Who or what put you on the path to your profession or career choice?
As a young child I had always wanted to be an accountant to help people. My passion for children was reinforced after I was introduced to the playcentre certificate programme by a great and enthusiastic teacher. Before having my own children I had never had the opportunity to be around other kids. Being a centre manager brought together my accounting/ business background and passion for supporting children and families. As I became part of a centre with a Christian philosophy that reflected my own beliefs and convictions I developed a natural affinity towards CECEAA. CECEAA for me was a calling.
What is the most interesting aspect about what you do?
Engaging with others involved in the same field. The shared passion for continuous improvement in what we do in ECE, and the satisfaction of seeing others grow and blossom, and find solutions to issues.
Have you found that there are times when it gets very stressful in your job? If so, how do you cope and get through it?
My Christian faith and prayer for guidance always helps me in times of stress. Also, recognising that I need to focus on priorities, planning ahead towards deadlines such as conferences, delegating what I can and taking time out to “recharge”. I love to climb mountains as a way to relieve tensions and have just taken up cycling to cafes to have a cup of coffee.
What would you say has been your biggest achievement?
I would hope my biggest achievement is yet to come as I live life by the philosophy that retirement is not in my dictionary! However, to date, I think it would be seeing the centre expand through two building projects to provide for more families and eight successful CECEAA national conferences and the growth of CECEAA.
And what would be your biggest regret?
Not taking more time out with my own children during the very busy schedules in centre life. There is always so much change in ECE to keep up with.
For anyone considering a similar career as yours – what two gems of advice might you suggest to them?
Know yourself, your strengths and passions so you find a career that fits you best. Recognise your achievements and fulfilments within each position so you don’t stay too long when you should pass on roles to others to build future leadership.
Give 110% to what you do. If you don’t leap out of bed in the morning to go to work, change jobs as you, probably, are not in the right place!
Would you ever consider changing careers or your role from your current one, and if so, would better pay/money be the main consideration?
Well yes, I am in the process of changing careers but yet see the roles as having so many similar qualities - caring for people as individuals, listening to people’s aspirations for their senior years, managing a service, property and staff, expanding an operation and ensuring continuous quality improvement.
No, money is not the main consideration. Challenge, satisfaction, a sense of calling and having something to offer are more important to me.