The educational leader at Tadpoles Early Learning Centre in Cooroy, a 75 placement centre with 15 staff and children as young as six weeks old, was recently announced as the Early Childhood Educator of the Year for Queensland, due in no small part to her push to involve the centre more in their surrounding community.

“I’ve spent the last year building really strong links with the community and we have lots of different excursions to local organisations, including the RSL, the library, an aged care facility and local schools,” she says.

MacCartie firmly believes the elderly have much to offer young children.

“Who better to teach our kids about our world than those who’ve been in it the longest?” she says.

“They’re a wealth of knowledge, and just because they’re not as active as a few years back, it doesn’t mean they don’t have so much to teach and share with kids.

MacCartie says they find it easy to interact on a very similar level.

“When you bring in things like music, nursery rhymes, song – it takes the elderly back to when they were kids.

“There’s that common ground, even though things are so drastically different these days, there are some plenty of things that they can still enjoy together and acknowledge as being the same as when they were little.

“The kids love it because a lot of them don’t have grandparents and don’t have those people who will sit there and listen to them talk.

“Everything’s so rush-rush in this world that sometimes the kids don’t get to sit down and have a chat to someone.

“The elderly – they’re all ears, they love hearing all their little stories.”

MacCartie and her colleagues have also been working closely with schools in the area to create a pre-reading program that helps make that transition from kindergarten to prep a lot smoother.

“We always get involved with things like Under 8s day ..., so the kids that are in our Kindergarten get to know their way around the schools, so next year it’s not such a big deal nor a big scary place to be.”

MacCartie was thrilled to receive her award.

“It’s lovely recognition – so often people in the early childhood sectors are thought of as baby sitters or not recognised for the educational side of things that we pushed forward for children.

“And it’s also probably given me a bit of credibility as well. People tend to say ‘oh, you must know what you’re talking about’... (laughs)

“We’ve got a great team of people that I work with and they become family. You spend longer with them than you are with your own family most days, so it has to work.”

Never one to rest on her laurels, MacCartie is driving a push to utilise an unused parcel of bushland next to the centre.

“The section we’re looking at is quite thick bushland and it’s just full of wildlife and natural flora and fauna.

“We’re hoping that we can develop it to a point where we can have tracks so that we can meet up with the other kindergartens in the area, but we can also have an observation area so that we can learn about our local flora and fauna and essentially how to protect it.” 

“If we can teach the kids from this grassroots level, it might make this world a better place than what it is now.

“It’s going to take some time, but I think we have enough dedication in the area to make it happen.”