HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 600: 25 January 2012

Maria Tanner Spends 5 Minutes With ... Catherine Lee
In the background, the sounds of Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s going on’ drown out all the other chit chatter and for a moment it’s just me, Catherine, and Marvin catching the Muri sunset discussing the complex dimensions of children’s brain functions. Did you know that the human brain weighs on average 1.4kgs? Or that the students at the Point Preschool in Oyster Bay, Australia are capable of distinguishing the finite roles of a leader? Neither did I, but Catherine Lee, Director of the Point Preschool and currently here in Rarotonga on holiday, is full of startling facts like that.
There are a few things you should know about Catherine, firstly when she says “We,” she literally means it, as in ‘we’ my students and I were knee deep in our worm farm ‘we’. Secondly, and probably most importantly, she’s not a woman of half measures. Sharing ideas and concepts about ones involvement with their environment to the susceptible minds of four year olds doesn’t even crease her frown line. Ask her about their ‘Save The Whale’ project and her eyes flash with enthusiasm and voice quivers with delight as she explains the petition she and her pupils put together to stop the whaling in Japan, “we came up with the idea of creating a life size whale out of plastic milk bottles in the like of the totem of the Dharawal (local Aboriginal community) people, at the time,” she laughs, “we had a discussion about some of the planes that were passing over head and whether the passengers could see our whale or not.”
To merely say that Catherine is passionate about early childhood education and teaching is an understatement, its what gets her up and out of bed every morning and has been for the past 31 years “Teaching for me is a share delight.” Graduating with a Diploma in teaching Early Childhood Education and Special Education and Bachelor of Education her career has spanned far and wide. You’d be lying if you said your first work experience “experience” didn’t turn to custard, well she’s no different. After sitting in front of a classroom filled with students not too far from your own age ideas of pursuing her high school dream of “being a high school teacher” quickly turned south, “high school students were really scary to me,” remembers Catherine. The possibility of becoming a Librarian as a career choice was also high in the cards, “I figured, I liked books and I liked to read,” but work experience again quickly quelled the thought of a lack lustre librarian. However several years down the line Catherine now spends her time playing dress up with her pupils and attempting to “hula hoop in sparkly high heels, long dress and crown.”
The Point Preschool, which was originally built in 1965 by the local residents of Oyster Bay was set up with the intentions of being a not for profit, community based establishment that focused on a diversity that would be reflected in the preschools environment and for the past 11 years Catherine has been endeavouring to maintain those founding traits, “we’ve really tried to keep that community feeling, I’m in charge of making sure that we are providing early education at a very high quality but also that its significant with the values that the community has.” The Preschool, which caters to only 20 children, small by Australian standards, has managed during Catherine’s tenure to accumulate a lengthy list of environmental awards including the 2011 Inaugural WWF Earth Hour People’s Choice Award marking the success of the preschools involvement in everyday sustainable practices, “We have a vegetable garden,” explains Catherine, “we do simple things for our environment so we don’t have a drier instead we hang our washing. And the kids they are just so proud,” she says gushing. -Maria Tanner

Herald Issue 554 09 March
- Norm exposes Trio of Doom
- Briefs from PM’s media conference Tuesday
- Tourism Industry ponders $5 million draft strategy
- Norman George resigns from Cook Islands Party
- Letter of Resignation from CIP
- Norman selfish says Prime Minister

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