An ECE teacher supporting kids from afar with ‘Captain Fancy Pants’ videos
In the words of her nominator, Megan, Annah McMillan is “an amazingly awesome ECE educator, daughter, sister and aunty.” Like so many other ECEs, schools and kura in Auckland, Annah’s childcare centre near Mount Eden had to take on a totally different way of working when lockdown hit.
It wasn’t necessarily the tamariki Annah was concerned for during the lockdown, as “they loved having the full attention of their parents” - the people she felt the worst for were the parents.
“It’s outrageous the expectation on parents to keep their kids happy, occupied, fed, rested and cleaned whilst also trying to work full time,” she says. “There are not enough hours in the day, and they’ve still got to take the dog for a walk, look after their own mental health, tidy the house and cook.”
During lockdown, Annah wanted to do as much as she could to take the load off the parents of tamariki in her care. She discovered somewhat of a hidden talent and created a character called ‘Captain Fancy Pants’, dressing up as a pirate and making videos of her singing, reading books and doing activities for the children. As an avid sailor in her spare time, Annah dug out her telescope, gumboots and beach sarong among other props to bring Captain Fancy Pants to life.
“The videos that the parents found most useful were ones of me reading books, so they could just play it for the kids at bedtime, giving them a bit of a break!” Annah even extended her services to her own family too, reading her five-year-old nephew bedtime stories over video calls.
“The kids loved it and I got really good feedback from whānau, saying they just wanted to watch them over and over again.”
Annah and her fellow kaiako/teachers were also doing regular Zoom hui, running activities like hide and seek on screen as a way of keeping everyone entertained and connected. “It can be stressful and there’s a lot required of you, but I love my job.”
When lockdown eased and tamariki could start coming back to day-care, Annah was stoked to see them return so happy. “Young kids are so resilient and adaptable. Because of all those videos and us connecting over lockdown, they had our faces and voices in their memories. Some parents were worried their kids would lose those relationships after such a long time apart, so it was awesome to see them slip straight back in as if no time had passed,” Annah says.
Despite being busy thinking of creative ways to keep the kids entertained from afar, lockdown gave Annah opportunities for professional development. “I had a bit of time to do webinars and online courses to broaden my skills as an ECE teacher. You don’t usually get that opportunity.”
Annah’s nominator Megan sums her up in such a lovely way: “Annah not only cares for and supports all the tamariki at her ECE centre but she’s been a wonderful support to her brother and sister’s children too, continuing to explore and come up with ways to stay connected and support the people in her life. I am always so proud of her passion and love for children and how she can continue to bring positivity and cheer to everyone around her!”
Tāmaki Pūkenga Rau