A Kununurra-based educator has been nominated for a major gong at this year's Australian Family Early Education and Care Awards.
Stephanie Woerde will vie for the Educator of the Year title after she was recognised for her work coordinating the Miriwoong Language Nest program at the Kununurra Early Learning Centre.
Ms Woerde said the nomination had come as a surprise, given her background was not in teaching, but it was exciting nonetheless.
"My academic background is actually in anthropology and community development so it may not immediately make sense to picture me working in the early childhood education and care setting," she said.
"However, in taking on the challenge of establishing the Miriwoong Language Nest program, it has become very clear that early childhood development is integral to community development more generally."
"After all, it is children who represent the community leaders and role models of the future."
The Miriwoong Language Nest is a culturally responsive education program that centres on native language immersion and is regularly delivered to more than 200 children each week.
Ms Woerde, who works for the Miriwoong Dawang Woorlab-gerring Language and Culture Centre, said it was a joy to be involved in a program that generated so much pride and positivity in the community.
"At its core, the Miriwoong Language Nest program is about helping children, even some of the most vulnerable, to believe in themselves and to celebrate each other," she said.
"It feels a little overwhelming to be singled out in the spotlight without my wonderful team of Miriwoong co-workers, without whom, the program wouldn't be what or where it is today.
"Together, we've shared our unique backgrounds and experiences and put great heart and energy into co-designing and delivering a program that ultimately educates and cares for local children in a culturally sensitive, stimulating and significant way."
Plans for the future of the Miriwoong Dawang Woorlab-gerring Language and Culture Centre include the purchase of audio readers for students with $9,500 from this year’s Optus Community Grants program.
The readers will help digitise and distribute the learning materials to more than 200 children and their families.
Judging chairman and Australian Family managing director Paul Clancy said finalists would be announced on May 6 before the State-based category winners were revealed on June 5.
The national winners will be announced at the Australian Family Early Education and Care Awards Gala Event on June 19.