Alison Warren – A secondary school teacher turned into a ECE teacher, researcher, and mentor!

Alison Warren has been a teacher educator with Te Rito Maioha in Whakatū Nelson since 2008. Her long involvement with early childhood education in Aotearoa began when she and her children started attending Mayfield Playcentre in rural Mid-Canterbury. “Playcentre became home for our family of four children for the next ten years.” This was just the beginning of a long and rich immersion in early childhood education as kaiako, teacher educator, and researcher. 

The beginnings
Alison worked as a secondary school teacher and became involved in early childhood education as a rural parent of young children where Playcentre formed a community of young families. Alison believes it was in Playcentre that she learned about the different aspects of ECE, running an organisation, emerging leadership, and the importance of whānau and community for young children and their families. 

Since Playcentre is run as a parent cooperative, Alison feels being part of the decision making was the most fascinating part of working in the Playcentre. “We basically had power over everything that went in the Playcentre - monthly meetings, curriculum, planning and assessment, resources, and building projects.”

From Playcentre, Alison moved into home-based ECE when she and a colleague established Barnardos Family Day Care in Ashburton in the early 1990s. After she and her family moved to the Nelson Tasman area in 1996, Alison continued her work in home-based ECE with Barnardos and then with Home Grown Kids, with some relieving work at education and care centres. Her experience as a visiting teacher supporting home-based educators involved coaching and mentoring which laid the foundation of her role at Te Rito Maioha. 

Journey with Te Rito Maioha
Alison started working with Te Rito Maioha in 2008. She believes her 15 years with the organisation have been the most incredible journey of continuous learning through teaching in the classroom and online, supporting student teachers, and working with the local ECE community, alongside postgraduate study and research. Alison feels it’s an absolute joy to be able to support students from the very beginning of their teaching experience and be able to watch them grow as kaiako. For Alison, the greatest gift she has received from her Te Rito Maioha colleagues has been a deepened understanding of what it means to be Pākehā in Aotearoa. 

Why ECE?
Alison has always felt at home in ECE, from the first days at Mayfield Playcentre until her retirement in 2023 and believes - ECE continues to go through challenging times where the complex knowledge and skills of kaiako, and their hard work is still underappreciated. Alison advocates for the value of ECE in Aotearoa underpinned by the values of manaakitanga and whanaungatanga. She feels ECE is the platform through which she can continue to give back to the community by continuing her academic writing and presentations which showcase to the world what ECE kaiako in Aotearoa do so well. Her research interests are in professionalism and teacher identities, Tiriti-based bicultural teaching and learning in ECE, and engaging with te ao Māori as Pākehā situated in Aotearoa. Alison completed her MEd in 2012 with a focus on teachers’ professional identities and her PhD in 2019 which investigated emotions in early childhood teaching. She has also completed two other research studies into bicultural teaching and learning in ECE. 

As Alison retires from her career as a teacher educator in 2023, she reflected on having contributed at all levels in education. “I have actually gone from secondary teaching to early childhood education and then teaching at the tertiary level”. She has enjoyed a rich and rewarding career focused on our youngest children: He aha te mea nui i te ao? He tangata, he whānau, he tamariki, he mokopuna.