Early childhood education teacher Rebekah Cook has been shortlisted for the Pride of New Zealand Awards. With her are students Taylor Lindsay and Aurora Tarrant. Photo: Phillip Rollo.

Teacher makes gift baskets for others

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During the past few months some early childhood teachers around the country have received gift baskets, vouchers, magazines subscriptions and other goodies to recognize hard work – and it’s all thanks to another early childhood teacher, Rebekah Cook.

Rebekah has been an early childhood teacher since 1997 and says it’s an extremely important job, but one that can be emotionally and physically demanding.

She is a firm believer that a happy teacher equals a happy child. So late last year, she started an initiative called Happy ECE Teachers, which sends gifts to deserving teachers to thank them for their contribution to early childhood education in their community.

Rebekah, who works at Early Learning Centre in Richmond, is the sole funder of the initiative, and nominated herself for the Pride of New Zealand Awards in a bid to raise the profile of Happy ECE Teachers, and to send more “thank yous” around the country.

“Teachers can have the best resources, the best facilities, but if they’re not passionate and motivated, then the best outcome for the children is not going to be achieved,” she says. “I saw the awards in an article in the Weekly and someone told me I should enter, so I thought ‘why not?’ I didn’t really expect to hear anything so I was quite excited when I heard I was shortlisted for an award.”

Rebekah says early childhood education is an industry she’s very happy to be in. “I just love seeing the children growing, developing and learning new skills every day. I just want to make a difference in families’ lives.”

But it was an interest in the wellbeing of teachers and its link with the well-being of children and families that started Happy ECE Teachers. “I was trying to find a tangible way I could recognise the hard work teachers do. It’s just my way of making a difference and it’s been really well received. People have just been blown away when they find out they’ve won. I’ve had nothing but positive feedback about it.”

In the long term, Rebekah hopes she can provide a variety of discounts and freebies to teachers in return for a low annual subscription. “It’d be like a club with benefits for teachers. That’s where I hope to take it.”

All registered early childhood teachers can enter on the Happy ECE Teachers’ website; happyeceteachers.weebly.com/ for their chance to win a prize.

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