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Proud day for first Early Childhood Education master's graduates

Monday 18 May 2020 4:22pm

While they couldn’t cross the stage on May 16, Leanne Walters and Karla Lawrie were proud to graduate in absentia to become the University of Otago’s first Master of Teaching and Learning Early Childhood Education graduates.

Karla Lawrie

Before entering the MTchgLn programme Karla Lawrie completed a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Education and worked as team leader at a Dunedin Playcentre.

Her experiences at the Playcentre – which is run as a parent co-operative – and a long involvement in early childhood education motivated her to gain a postgraduate qualification in the field.

Karla Lawrie

“I’ve been involved with Playcentre for many years, and I love it. Young tamariki are inspiring, clever, engaging and gorgeous. Their communications are so genuine, and I love the wonderment with which they view the world.”

Karla has enjoyed gaining deeper understandings of the New Zealand early childhood curriculum and the bi-cultural nature of this “wonderful document.”

“I have also loved the warmth and connection felt with the tamariki during my placement. I’ve been in an under-two's setting and have really enjoyed learning to see the competence and resilience of the youngest members of our society – this will certainly change the way I work with this age group.

“The kaiako in this area of early childhood are truly worth their weight in gold, they are so knowledgeable and committed. I have learned a lot from them.”

In future Karla hopes to work in a centre that has a focus on using te reo Maori.

Leanne Walters

Before enrolling in the Master of Teaching and Learning (MTchgLn) programme Leanne worked as a Vocational Support Worker with adults with disabilities, and prior to that was an Education Support Worker in early intervention.

She continued vocational support work part-time last year while studying and describes transitioning from a mostly physical job to spending hours sitting, and balancing financial and family commitments with study, as challenging.


“But the staff at the centre I was on placement at were simply amazing. I couldn't have asked for better mentors at the start of my career. They have guided me in exactly the direction I need to go. The wisdom they have provided is priceless and I am forever grateful to them.”

She also credits College of Education staff for being supportive and understanding.

“It’s been 17 years since I completed my bachelor’s degree, so getting back into study took a bit of getting used to, but the teaching staff were just amazing.”

Leanne, who has been working for IDEA Services during lockdown, says her ideal job would be as a hospital play specialist or teaching full-time at a Dunedin centre.