‘Reconnect’: St Nicholas’ Staff Conference 2023

On Saturday 29 October, St Nicholas team members attended our first-ever Staff Conference, themed ‘Reconnect’.

Reflecting on the St Nicholas’ 2023 Staff Conference, themed ‘Reconnect,’ it is evident that the day was a profound and enlightening experience for St Nicholas as an agency and all those in attendance. The speakers, which included talent from within St Nicholas as well as two keynotes, shared stories and sessions that not only inspired but also deeply resonated with St Nicholas’ mission and values.

Mel Histon, founder of the charity Got Ya Back Sista, shared her journey from battling breast cancer to becoming an advocate against sex trafficking in Nepal, which highlighted the transformative power of education. Her words, “If you are okay, they will be okay,” emphasised the vital role parents and carers play in the emotional wellbeing of the children we nurture. Mel’s passion for education as a catalyst for change left an indelible mark, reminding us of the impact St Nicholas’ team members have on young lives.

Angie Freeman’s (Pedagogy and Practice Manager, St Nicholas) session on ‘Reconnecting with the Joy of Education’ served as a powerful reminder of what serves as the heart of early childhood education and care – joy. Her statement, “The world is sucking the joy out of us every day, but in early childhood education and care, children are finding the joy every day,” captured the very spirit of the profession and reinforced the importance of fostering a joyful learning environment for children, as well as fellow team members.

The panel discussion, featuring some of St Nicholas’ senior leaders, provided valuable insights into the future of early childhood education. Jess’s (Trainer and Assessor, St Nicholas Pathways) aspiration for early childhood to be seen as important as primary education and Josh’s (Area Service Manager, St Nicholas) call for recognition of out-of-school-hours (OOSH) care as a serious career path echoed the sentiments of the entire room. These discussions were not just conversations; they were affirmations of St Nicholas’ shared dedication.

Following the panel discussion, Erica Wilkinson (Executive Manager – Professional Learning, St Nicholas) and Carolyn McGuiness (Leader Trainer and Assessor, St Nicholas Pathways) conducted a session on emotional intelligence, adding a profound layer to the conference experience. Their interactive presentation invited participants to explore their emotional intelligence styles through practical and play-based experiences grounded in early childhood theory. This hands-on session equipped attendees with valuable tools and insights to support the emotional development of the children in their care. The integration of emotional intelligence into the conference’s themes of reconnection underscored the significance of understanding our emotions to better nurture the emotional wellbeing of the children we care for.

Jason Blinman, Founder and CEO and The Maven Effect, shared a session on having challenging conversations. His emphasis on compassionate communication and the importance of ‘Why?’ resonated deeply. It reinforced our commitment to nurturing respectful and empathetic relationships within our community, as well as understanding the purpose behind what we do at St Nicholas, which is, ‘We believe in supporting communities to flourish.’

During his closing remarks, David Healy (Executive Director, St Nicholas) recognised the resilience and strength of our team members over the last few years. His hope following the conference was for our team members to move forward with a renewed sense of purpose. The insights shared throughout the day have become guiding principles, shaping our interactions and approaches. The St Nicholas’ 2023 Staff Conference was not just a conference; it was a source of inspiration and a catalyst for our continued growth and dedication to early childhood education.