Kay Harling worked at the Emerald Community Kindergarten for 15 years.
Kay Harling worked at the Emerald Community Kindergarten for 15 years.

Kids farewell kindergarten Kay

When Kay Harling began working at the Emerald Community Kindergarten, the outside play area was a concrete yard with a small, square sandpit.

Now Kay describes the kindy’s outdoor section — comprising a playground, chicken coop, musical instruments, fish ponds, and more — as an oasis.

“We’ve changed a lot,” she said.

“Experience and time changes you.”

The kids at the kindy had input into the renovation, specifically requesting two statues modelled after the true story of the hippo Owen and tortoise Mzee, who bonded after Owen was separated from his herd.

Now the large playground, which Kay said was the biggest change to the centre that she had seen, was lively with children running, swinging, drawing, and making their own music.

“The best part is being with children and playing, and making it a wonderland for the kids,” Kay said, showing off the stimulating and open space.

“I want them to feel awe and wonder when they walk in.”

Kay joining in during play time.
Kay joining in during play time.

Kay arrived in Emerald 28 years ago and has been the beloved director for the Emerald Community Kindergarten for the past 15.

She said when she first arrived she felt unprepared, but gradually learnt from other staff.

And after a decade and a half, Kay retired last Friday so she could move to Bundaberg and be closer to family.

“It’s bittersweet. It’s been such a part of me,” she said.

“There aren’t many centres like this.”

The kindergarten opened its doors each day last week for kids and parents to wish the director goodbye and good luck.

From the younger visitors Kay received a book of farewells.

On one page, the children wrote responses to the question, ‘What does Mrs K always say?’

The phrases they remembered most were ‘Good morning’ and ‘Pack up time’.

Kay said she would continue to do some relief teaching, but looks forward to having more free time — and less paperwork.