Long committed to early education and children with additional learning needs, Hull has just been awarded the 2016 Early Childhood Teacher of the Year at the 2016 Victorian Early Years Awards, held at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne.

The awards, now in their 11th year,  recognise exceptional contributions to improving the learning and development of youngsters and supporting their families.

“Professionally my life has changed most dramatically in the last five years since moving down to the Mornington Peninsula,” Hull says.

“I guess you come into your own. I was ready to take on more of a leadership role and the centre that I work at is now a big one, so there were lots of opportunities for me to develop those skills and then the next step was obviously to take it to leadership beyond my immediate Kinder.”

Having established a leadership role at Bentons Square Kindergarten, along with some  supporting and mentoring of staff, Hull says the award also recognises her part in developing a partnership with a local early intervention agency.

“All Kinders are inclusive ... but we are supposed to be welcoming of children with additional learning needs and then supporting those families within our Kinder program.

“But what we’ve developed is a model where a local early intervention agency called Biala [Peninsula], once a week the early intervention teacher/speech therapist or occupational therapist actually come and do assessing in the Kinder program, so that those children with additional needs that are enrolled within our program, who are also enrolled with Biala, receive their early intervention in-house.”

“Parents of children with additional needs are really busy people, who’ve got a lot on their plate, so to be able to receive some of their early intervention service while their child is also at kinder is enormously helpful for them, but it also means that those children with additional needs that are in my program can receive their speech therapy or occupational therapy in small groups with your typically developing children.”

Hull says over her career she’s witnessed a worrying decline in children’s social skills, and believes children today are over-exposed to tech devices and are not engaged in old-fashioned play nor in enough communication with parents and peers..

“I am very passionate about language and literacy and the foundation of those happen in early childhood, both in the home and in early childhood services, I am increasingly concerned about the amount of time that even people in general spend [with screens].

“People are under the misconception that apps provide just the most amazing learning opportunities for children. They have their place, but nothing replaces actually talking to children.”

Another of Hull’s concerns is that when children spend a lot of time on devices, if they’re not on the screen, they’re losing that ability to imagine and create and devise their own games.

“Screens and technology are a part of our world, ... I am just saying that limiting the access is important, and there’s a lot of research that supports that.”