Educator in the Spotlight – Rhys Galyer

Published on Tuesday, 18 May 2021
Last updated on Thursday, 13 May 2021

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An important and popular feature of our weekly newsletter for early childhood education and care providers is our profiles on dynamic and inspirational people working in the sector.

This week meet Rhys Galyer from The Secret Garden Childcare in Palmerston North, who was nominated by a colleague in another service.

What is your name and where do you work?

My name is Rhys Damien Galyer but the children call me ‘Rhysy-Boy’, I am 26 years old and I work at The Secret Garden Childcare in Palmerston North. We have six key teachers, one head teacher, and we are registered for 65 children in our over twos section.

What is your professional background and career experience?

I’ve been working with ‘The Secret Garden Childcare’ whanau for six years as of February 2021. The first three years of this while studying through Te Rito Miaoha, and then a full-time teacher for the other three.

Before I applied to study I only had one day’s experience in a service properly, as a volunteer just helping out for a day in the Feilding centre. I applied to study a week later, and the rest is history.

What attracted you to a career in the early childhood sector?

I’ll confess during my school life I never thought about it, not that I knew what I wanted to do after school, but I was mainly motivated for the sport and socialising sides of life.

My mum is a great passionate pioneer for early childhood and has done it her whole adult life, but again growing up I never thought of it as a career path for me for no reason other than just not knowing where I would fit in in my future.

A close and amazing family friend Lorelei Dekker is the founder of ‘The Secret Garden Childcare’ services, so while visiting her at the Feilding centre, within five minutes I found myself engaged with a group of children and having a really amazing time.

It was suggested to me to do a volunteer day, and so I did and had a blast. It just so happened that the Palmerston North centre was opening around the time of all this, so it had a sense of destiny about it all.

Being in a place where I can be myself and be a positive influence to others within my team and families has made me feel right at home for six years.

What does a ‘normal’ day look like for you?

First of all, what even is normal? But every day I come in and feel the surge of energy this place provides and makes you want to be nowhere else but here.

Once I’ve said my over the top “kia ora'' and “good mornings”, I know it’s time to meet the children’s energy and enthusiasm with my own.

Every day can be different depending on where I’m needed to be, but from days outside getting dirty black feet, to being inside creating engaging and enriching experiences, everything we do is in response to what the children bring to us.

If they want to do a certain project, activity, or expand on an idea, then I along with the rest of the team do whatever it takes to make sure those needs are met with a smile on all faces.

What makes your service unique?

You can’t talk about this service without first talking about the environment. It’s one of those that you have to almost see to believe, something dreamy and ideal that once you leave you’ll feel better about life in almost every way.

We don’t take it for granted, and so then come the values of caring for the environment and how it means something more to us than just a place to play.

This comes through the local stories, history and visits we have to our community. The idea that the environment is alive around us and within us. Our philosophy and curriculum is based around the beliefs and values harnessed from Reggio Emilia, so the idea of the environment being the third teacher really takes its hold with us and our tamariki.

What are some of the advantages of working in early childhood education and care?

You asked what a normal day looks like, and obviously children have their interests and characteristics that are seen almost every day. But some of the best moments I’ve had here have come from just one child, one line, or one idea.

From there discussions begin, plans are made, groups are formed, and you can have some of the most amazing experiences that when you woke up you didn’t even begin to think about. So for me it’s the sense that there is no idea and no interest that can’t be worked on at almost any moment, and for our centre, that’s all driven by the child/children.

What are some of the biggest challenges facing the sector?

For me one that springs to mind is a changing society dynamism. Children for the most part these days aren’t exposed to the same risks and play compared to even when I was young on the whole. Everyone seems to have an iPad by the time they go to school.

Now technology is great and all, but it goes without saying what it can take away. Building resilience and challenging yourself positively through experiences and passions is what it’s about for me, and maybe due to growing financial needs and mind sets around the question ‘what should we do now’, those values perhaps have dwindled.

How has your service changed to deal with these challenges?

Unless it’s for ceremonies or for child involved projects, we don’t use screens very often. Again, the environment is our tool, and is a blessing for us to be part of every day.

So, with the professional knowledge we’ve acquired we set up our environment to encourage positive risk taking, but also with open ended resources e.g. tyres, planks, logs, water to allow interests and ideas to have no limitations.

How does the early childhood industry need to change to adapt to these challenges?

My experience outside of my own centre is limited, and I know there are amazing things happening elsewhere besides my own. But seek as many professional development opportunities as you can and live in the moment, because children won’t wait around forever.

What advice would you offer someone thinking about a career or looking for a promotion in early childhood education and care?

A lot of people have told me “oh I’ve always thought about doing ECE”. If you really want to do it, do it. It’s not something you can do half-heartedly otherwise it’s probably not for you.

But finding the right place and having your own sense of belonging, is something that for me means a lot. Just keep working hard out there and focus on what really matters.

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