TWENTY-four years of moulding young minds is about to end for two dedicated Laidley kindergarten teachers.
C&K Kindergarten's director Barbara Buchanan and assistant director Norma Parker will retire at the end of term, though their legacy and friendship will continue to live on.
"We've been working together for so long that one can start to answer a question, and the other can finish it,” Norma said.
"We know what the other one is thinking.
"The children will always say 'Mrs Parker' because it's easier and we both answer to it.
"Or the funny one is - we get Mrs Bu-parker which covers everybody.”
Norma's journey in early education began at C&K Kindergarten 33 years ago and it wasn't long before the Laidley local's passion for the job flourished.
"I've always loved children and my mother was a kindy teacher for many years too so once I had my own family it was natural for me to take this path,” she said.
Barbara said as soon as she walked through the kindy's doors 24 years ago, she knew she had landed herself the perfect job.
"I was a primary school teacher and when my own kids went through preschool I was really interested in the way they learnt without being taught,” she said.
"So, I retrained in early childhood and ended up getting this job. I've loved it.
"It's a wonderful kindy to work for, it's been like a second home to us.”
Norma and Barbara unanimously agreed that the best part of their job was the children.
"I don't know if I'd be the person I am without working here,” Norma said.
"I just love the children's reactions, how accepting they are of everyone and everything, you become part of their extended family too,” Norma said.
"They invite us to all their birthdays and sleepovers, not that we ever go,” Barbara said.
"It's so lovely seeing the difference from the beginning of the year, being so hesitant to leave mum or dad, then by the end of term they are ready for school. It's just beautiful.”
Despite going through two major floods, the good times outweighed the bad, and the pair forged a lifelong friendship.
"The two floods were so challenging, the kindy was lower then, there was least 1m of flood water through the whole building,” Barbara said.
"It was devastating to see all the things we had worked on for so many years, like the library and equipment, all destroyed.”
After the 2011 and 2013 floods the community rallied behind many businesses in Laidley, including C&K Kindergarten and Norma and Barbara worked hard to build it back up to the kindy it is today.
"We were heavily supported by the community and received donations from all around Australia to have the building raised,” Norma said.
Over the last two years, the pair finally began hiring extra staff to prepare for their eventual handover, which they both agreed would be bittersweet.
"It's so rewarding to be leaving the kindy in the position it's in now,” Barbara said.
"We exceed the national quality standards which is a great feeling.
"The kindy looks wonderful, it's a great environment to work in and well resourced.”
The women have been a big part of the Laidley community, organising visits to Tabeel nursing home, introducing the children to indigenous culture with local aboriginal artist visits and numerous Spring Fair floats under their belt.
Now Norma and Barbara are watching the next generation of children coming through the
"The young mums are now grandmas bringing their grand kids through, and little ones we taught are now married and bringing their children through,” Barbara said.
Upon her retirement Norma plans to do some more travelling and spend more time with the family.
"I will and keep an eye on the kindy as I walk past too,” she said.
Barbara said she is only going into semi-retirement for now and looks forward to relief teaching at other kindergartens.
"I will be still be at C&K helping out in more of an administration role for a little while,” she said.
"But I'll have more time to spend with my grand kids and we plan to travel around Australia a bit more too.”
One thing the pair are looking forward to is coming back for the opening of the kindy's next time capsule.
"In 2003 we put down a time capsule and in 2013 those students came back to open it,” Barbara said.
"Now there's another time capsule and in 2023 we will be back.”
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