This week, the Victorian Early Years Awards celebrated the exceptional contributions of individuals and organisations in early childhood education.
Winners included a program to improve children's language and social skills in a community with a high refugee population, and a play map for families to access places to play in their local area.
Nicole Bechaz from Banyan Fields Kindergarten won Early Childhood Teacher of the Year. She led a team of 16 teachers and educators who provide programs for 156 children, many with additional needs.
'It's just such an acknowledgment of all the behind the scenes work that goes into creating amazing kindergarten programs across Victoria,' Nicole says.
'It made me stop and think about everything that I do.'
Nicole's mother was a kindergarten teacher, and she wanted to be like her. 'I feel so privileged that I have an incredible job where I can make a difference,' Nicole says.
'The early years are so important because it sets the foundations for all learning and all of life. And the kids are incredible. They teach me something new every day – they are amazing people.'
The new Emeritus Professor Collette Tayler Excellence in Educational Leadership Award was presented to Community Kinders Plus. Community Kinders Plus is a network across Frankston and the Mornington Peninsula that provides early years education and better outcomes to disadvantaged children.
The award recognises an early childhood service or early years management organisation that has significantly improved the quality of their learning and teaching practices.
See all 2018 Victorian Early Years Awards
categories and winners.