Hearing children’s stories best part of job

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Chatting to children has been the favourite part of Lynda MacDonald’s 22-year career as an early childhood teacher.

However, late last year the Aroha Early Learning Centre owner sold the business she started with husband Joe in 1995 to Akoranga Preschool owners Jo and Malcolm Brown.

Mrs MacDonald said listening to children and hearing their stories was the best part of her job.

“I am the richer for it,” Mrs MacDonald said.

For most of the 22 years, Mrs MacDonald was either fulltime or part time working with the children, although for about a year she worked in the office.

“I realised this isn’t for me. I need to be out there with the children.

“They pushed my buttons.”

Although it was a relief in a way to have sold the business, Mrs MacDonald said she had “just loved it”.

“Joe would say Linda’s gone to the centre of the centre of her universe.”

It had been an interesting journey for her.

“It’s been amazingly rewarding. There have been ups and downs.

“I started and learnt along the way.”

Her faith in God had been an anchor point for her life and greatly influenced the way she related to people.

“Being genuine, treating people with respect, knowing that you don’t know it all and that it is a learning journey, valuing other ideas and perspectives and be ready to learn from those perspectives is important to me.”

Being open to learning new skills and information was a key to personal growth.

“I think people get stuck sometimes when they think they know it all.”

One interest she has developed during her time at the centre was in being eco-friendly.

“I’ve picked up a passion for sustainability.”

On a trip to Nepal recently, Mrs MacDonald was delighted to find items made out of lolly and potato chip packets.

She had not retired, Mrs MacDonald said.

“[I’m having] a change of direction.”

She was looking forward to spending more time tramping and with family.

Tough start

When Gore woman Lynda MacDonald, with the support of husband Joe, started Aroha Early Learning Centre in 1995, attitudes to early childhood education were different from the way they are today.

The couple converted the former Muir’s discount supermarket into Gore’s first privately owned early learning centre.

Mrs MacDonald said Gore people were slow to catch the vision of sending children to child care.

She was told one day, “if you can’t care for your children you’ve got the aunties or the grandmothers or the grandfathers but you don’t send them to a child care centre.

“Gore was very conservative and so the thought of an early learning centre where children were cared for outside of their own family shocked some people – they didn’t like it,” Mrs MacDonald said.

For this reason the business struggled and the couple thought they had made a mistake even though the research suggested there was a need.

“We did not look financially very good at all. Financially it was bit of a disaster,” Mrs MacDonald said.

The couple persevered and invested more money into the business and slowly the financial situation improved.

“Five or six years in, we were doing OK.”

Nowadays people were “much more open, accepting”.

Trained in the days before primary teachers earned degrees, Mrs MacDonald studied to earn a teaching degree and completed an early childhood teaching diploma.

She has also gained early childhood education experience working in playcentre.