For Chloe Stewart, Director of St Nicholas Early Education’s newest centre at Gillieston Heights, her experience as a dancer inspired her love of working with children and her passion for leading and mentoring emerging educators.
“I would always play a leading role in putting the shows together at my dance school,” says Ms Stewart, “so when it came to leadership, I understood what it meant because my dance teachers had guided me in learning those skills.
“It was my dance teacher who asked me if I had ever thought about entering early childhood. She said I was really great with children.”
Ms Stewart started out her early childhood career at a small centre in Mannering Park, but soon felt as though she had more to offer.
“I did a bit of travelling and realised I needed a bit of a change,” she says. “I wanted to try something new.”
She applied for a number of jobs in Melbourne, including a room leader position that allowed her to get her first taste of leadership in an early childhood setting.
Once in Melbourne, Ms Stewart ’s career began to flourish. She quickly progressed from room leader, to 3IC, 2IC, Centre Director, and then in operations assisting with new centre openings.
“I eventually became one of the coordinators for our organisation’s Positive Education model,” Ms Stewart says, “implementing it into the curriculum across their 14 centres.”
However, despite all of her career successes, Ms Stewart began to miss home.
“I decided my life was more about the people I was with rather than the place I was in,” she says.
“I had worked really hard on my career in Melbourne and grown so much that I thought it was time for me to come back to Newcastle and go after something that I really wanted.”
She began researching providers of early education in the Newcastle and Hunter region, found St Nicholas Early Education, and immediately felt drawn to it.
“I sent my resume in and Kerri [Armstrong – General Operations Manager, St Nicholas Early Education] called me two days later and mentioned there was a centre opening in Gillieston Heights, and it would be St Nicholas’s largest to date,” Ms Stewart says.
“The growth of St Nicholas was something that really appealed to me. I didn’t want to come home and step backwards in my career, so I needed to find an employer willing to support my growth and development, and St Nicholas was definitely willing to do that.”
Ms Stewart was offered the role of Director at St Nicholas Gillieston Heights, and made the move back home to Newcastle to begin the next chapter of her career.
Once settled, she began to pick up on a few key differences between Melbourne and Newcastle in relation to lifestyle and the early childhood sector.
“One thing I noticed coming back to Newcastle is the quality of early childhood educators here,” she says. “A lot of educators who have come to St Nick’s have heard about its reputation as a high quality service. It attracts educators who share that passion for quality.”
Ms Stewart also notes the close-knit community and focus on personal relationships as a key feature of Gillieston Heights.
“In Newcastle, I can’t go to the supermarket without running into six people I know, and I love that,” she says. “I’ve also noticed the families at Gillieston Heights are really big on personal relationships, which I’m all about. They want to be involved with their children’s learning.”
Ms Stewart says she is excited about Gillieston Heights’ “bush kinder” environment because there are plenty of opportunities for parents and the community to get that involvement they are looking for.
“I can’t wait to see what the families are going to bring to it,” she says. “We have a mud pit, a duck enclosure, and dry creek beds in there, however I want children and families to make it their own.”
As challenging as it is to be the inaugural Director of an early childhood service, Ms Stewart says she is ready to hit the ground running. And fortunately, she won’t be doing it alone.
“I can’t wait to start working together with all the team and pass on all my experience and knowledge here at Gillieston Heights,” she says.
St Nicholas Early Education Gillieston Heights, opens this month. Places are limited. Ms Stewart encourages families wishing to enrol their children to do so as soon as possible to avoid missing out.
To enrol your child at St Nicholas Early Education Gillieston Heights, click here.