When Wembley Primary School's Jan Rowe started teaching 32 years ago, pre-primaries were not allowed to teach children to read or write anything apart from their own name.
"We weren't allowed to have charts up with all the letters and sounds," she said.
"We'd have a district director come into our classroom and pull them off the board in those days, because pre-primary had to be play-based and you couldn't do formal teaching of letters, sounds and numbers."
Changes inspired by the national curriculum and the raising of the school starting age mean pre-primary students now do a compulsory two hours of literacy and numeracy lessons each day. By the time they start Year One they can write a few sentences, read and do maths.
Jemma Flockhart said even in the five years she had been teaching there had been a big shift in what children were learning at pre-primary and kindergarten.
To reflect the increasing emphasis on the learning that takes place between kindergarten and Year 3, the Education Department is offering a new award.
It has added early childhood teacher of the year to existing categories for the annual WA Education Awards, with a prize of $25,000.
For the first time, parents and students can also nominate their favourite teacher by entering their vote online at <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.det.wa.edu/educationawards">www.det.wa.edu/educationawards </a>. Nominations must be in by August 10.