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History

Hurstbridge Pre-School was opened in 1975. The building itself was a gift from the Labor Government when Gough Whitlam was Prime Minister. At this time Pre-School education was acknowledged as an important part of the early years of learning. The money raised by the local community was used for buying equipment.

A very enthusiastic Joy Humphries was appointed as our foundation Directress and in February 1975 the kindergarten, with two fully subsidized 4-year-old groups (2 x 25 children), was officially opened by Mr Race Matthews, Federal Member for Casey and Eltham Shire President – Mr Knox.

In 1976 our then fully subsidised 3-year-old group (20 children) commenced with Carlene Youl as Directress / Teacher. Both Joy and Carlene had originally trained for and taught as Primary and Infant teachers with the Education Dept and had started Pre-School teaching with a firm belief that the early years were the most important in a child’s education.

‘The Kindergarten within the Community’ became a focus as the children’s program interacted with the closer and wider community. Visits to potters, artists, farms and orchards were as important as visits to local doctors, dentists and shops. People with special skills came in to visit. In 1977, the kindergarten was a focal point for the Hurstbridge community care group, which attempted to meet some of the community needs with the help of volunteers. This group lasted for about two years.

As our well earned reputation for excellence grew, the demands on places for pre-school children couldn’t be met.  Parents enrolled at the kinder on an advertised day, usually a Saturday, to get their child a place for the following year. It was a bit like football finals tickets with people camping out late on Friday night to make sure they got a place. Many wonderful friendships developed and still continue to this day due to those line ups. There was no favouritism shown, even our own Gumnuts assistant, Dini, lined up to get her sons in to kinder!

There were so many 4-year-old children wanting places that our 3-year-old group became a 4-year-old group for a few years.  Hurstbridge needed a second Kinder. Some of our Hurstbridge Pre-School Committee members and interested community members formed a committee to have a second kinder built. At last after a lot of hard work the pressure eased with the opening of Ferguson Park Kinder in 1982. Enrolment line-ups had also passed with the then Eltham Council taking over with Central enrolment for 4 year old groups.

Over the years, we have trialled many different options to suit the changing needs of families. We have catered to families by changing our group sizes, group hours, combinations of groups, shorter sessions/longer sessions, all day programs, teachers’ hours/days, etc.

During 2000 we have celebrated the 25th year of service with Joy Humphries and were sad to see her retire. The 25 years of service by Joy, with her enthusiasm and creativity, have left Hurstbridge Pre-School with a very strong foundation on which to build into the future, ever expanding the experience for our children. Joy was supported with her wonderful program by very dedicated and enthusiastic assistants. She was lucky to work with Joyce Horgan, Dawn Lynch, Rosemary Orth, Bonny Chaffer, Carole Watson and Diane Cross.

In 2005 we celebrated the Pre-School’s 30th birthday and unveiled a path to mark this joyous occasion.

Teresa Wojcik enjoyed working at the pre-school for 2 years, and in 2003 Wendy Stevens joined us for 4 years. In July 2006 Jenice Syme joined us for 3 and a half years, and brought with her much experience, enthusiasm, and love of teaching.

Carlene Youl enjoyed a 36 year career with the pre-school as the 3 year old group teacher supported by her Assistant, Dini Shepherd.  During 2010 Carlene decided to “hang up her teaching hat”. Carlene has inspired and nutured our youngest children in all areas of play. In December 2010 Jenice resigned and Carlene retired after an outstanding 36 years service with the pre-school.

Melissa McGrath joined the pre-school staff temporarily in January 2010 after over 4 years of relief teaching, and in December 2010 – July 2013 Melissa covered many roles including Director and 3yo & 4yo teacher.  Melissa brought extensive experience to the pre-school and was a firm believer in play-based learning, her gentle nature and fun ideas were appreciated by many of the children and parents.

Heidi Ratje is our current Nominated Supervisor, 3yo & 4yo teacher. Heidi joined us in Term 2 of 2011 and brings refreshing ideas, energy and enthusiasm along with her passion for play based learning. Heidi brings with her a very gentle and caring approach to her teaching. She is a wonderful asset whose teaching style complements the other staff and philosophy of the kinder.

Nicole Hender also joined us for a short term in 2011/2012. Nicole’s vibrant program actively reflected the new Early Years Learning Framework and her enthusiasm for ensuring the children are happy engaged learners was reflected in her practices.

In 2013 Jenny Fluck  joined our team and brought her broad experience in play-based learning.  Jenny gives children the opportunity and freedom to explore, experiment, create and imagine.  Jenny’s special interests include story-telling, puppetry, music and the great outdoors.

2014, and after a short hiatus we welcomed back the talented and genuinely play-based teacher, Melissa McGrath.

At all times throughout our history, the strength of Hurstbridge Pre-School has been its proud reputation for being innovative, individual and unique. We have at all times thought of ourselves as a very important community within the Hurstbridge community and have endeavoured to provide the fine balance of the very best Pre-School education for our children, always considering the ever changing needs of our parents and the Pre-School community as a whole.