By ROXANNE MILLAR
MAREE Everingham might be the one giving the lessons, but she often finds herself the person learning the most.
The supervisor of Kingscliff's Mini School, Mrs Everingham is retiring next month after 23-years spent educating the coastal village's children.
"You really do learn a lot. I think the community and parents don't give children the benefit of what they know - they know a lot more than people give them credit for," she said.
"Recently we were playing a concept game and I said to the children 'we need to use our brains for this' when one of them piped up and said 'but I only have one brain'. They really make you sit back and think."
Mrs Everingham first got involved at the Mini School as a parent and was later asked to take the top job for 10 weeks.
"I was surprised because I was an infant primary teacher and didn't see myself as an early childhood teacher," she said.
"At first it seemed really easy and then I was asked to stay on. These days I see ex-pupils all grown up and working around the town."
During her time she has cultivated a reputation for working with families and their children to understand their personal circumstances.
"I have shared families ups and downs. I try to support them because a lot are under stress. I figure if a child is not feeling good then it is no good having fancy activities out - they need more than that."
It hasn't all been plain sailing for Mrs Everingham though. She sites increasing bureaucracy as the job's main frustration.
"It is hard working in a field that is often only paid lip service to by politicians and the powers that be," she said.
"There is a lack of financial support from them to ensure quality, and this is a field where the major stakeholders children - cannot advocate for themselves."
Mrs Everingham will retire next month to enjoy family, friends and fitness. She will continue her community work.
"I look forward to being looked after in my old age by former pre-schoolers who I treated kindly," she said.
A farewell dinner for Mrs Everingham will be held on December 3 at the Cudgen Leagues Club. Tickets are $20. Call the Mini School on 6674 2750 before November 26 for tickets.