December 4, 2020

A commitment to nurturing children’s growth and development and individualised attention to care has created a community-wide Riverside Preschool family and earned the staff recognition as Hunters Hill Heroes.

The non-profit, community-based preschool in Henley provides a caring, supportive and stimulating learning environment where children are free to play, explore, discover and learn at their own pace.

Parent Carolyn Armstrong nominated Riverside Preschool “and all the wonderful teachers who work there” as Hunters Hill Heroes.

“My son has attended Riverside preschool the last two years and I could not have hoped for a more nurturing environment for him,” she said.

“The teachers have all been there a long time and love the kids and the preschool and it shows in everything they do for the kids.

“It is the warmest, most loving environment and so well run.”

Carolyn said the preschool not only prepared children in the Hunters Hill community for ‘big school’, but went above and beyond day-to-day.

She cited an example of how one teacher, Sally, did this recently.

“She was dropping her own daughter at school when her car broke down,” Carolyn said.

“Instead of staying to look after the car and have it towed, she jumped on two buses and got to preschool in time as she didn’t want to let the kids and her co-workers down – she said she would worry about the car later.

“That sort of dedication is typical of the staff at Riverside Preschool and we are so appreciative.”

Riverside Preschool Director Leigh Coutman said that for staff it was about offering children the most wonderful experiences, learning through play and creating a sense of belonging.

“I think it’s the individualised attention and the staff really striving to get to know the child, the individual, and really getting to know the families,” she said.

“This is their second home.”

“Staff want them to have the best experiences while they’re here as well.”

That commitment was displayed through the COVID-19 lockdown when staff went above and beyond to provide take-home packages with activities, such as arts and crafts, for the children as well as taking photos and videos to share with families.

Creating connections outside of preschool was important too, from visiting the nearby Happy Hens’ Henley Green Community Garden, or older members of the community during occasions such as Seniors Week.

“It’s just forming those really strong relationships with the community as well,” Leigh said.

She said the children really loved the visits too.

Children were encouraged to have a love of the outdoors and nature, from appreciating the trees in the playground, to bringing plants in to the classroom or visiting the community garden.

The rewards of the job were many for the staff too.

“I think for us, it’s just watching a child as they come in at the door and they’re unsure at the beginning and watching them blossom and the become more confident and getting them ready for school,” Leigh said.

“Children in one or two years, they just blossom so much, they’re so ready to move on to big school.

“It’s just seeing that growth and development.”

A great compliment was having return visits from past students, either at a reunion event the year after leaving preschool, or high school leavers dropping in to say hello.

At all ages, the children loved coming back to show the staff what they were doing now, Leigh said.

“We always say once you’re a Riverside family, always a Riverside family.

“I think parents feel that.

“We’ve had some families that have had five children come through.

“They get quite teary when it’s time to move on because they’ve spent a lot of time watching the preschool grow and develop.”

The longevity was also evident among the staff

“We’ve had a staff member here for 19 years, from the day the preschool first opened,” Leigh said.

“I think we have a really good relationship with all of the community.”

Help us to shine a light on other unsung Hunters Hill Heroes by nominating your hero today.

Please note that nominations for Hunters Hill Heroes will be considered for Citizen of the Year awards.

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Hunter’s Hill Council

22 Alexandra Street, Hunters Hill NSW 2110
PO Box 21, Hunters Hill NSW 2110
Tel: (02) 9879 9400
ABN: 75 570 316 011