By Milica Atanackovic
At the end of June, we wished you a very happy retirement. I can picture you squirming reading this, reading a Scéalta dedicated to you. It is essential to celebrate the people in our lives, it is important to share stories, and people need to know the impact they have had on those around them. You have, in equal measure, impacted the early childhood education and care sector throughout your career. It’s hard to believe you have been within the early learning and care sector for 31 years. Starting your career as an owner/manager of a sessional playgroup, then working as a tutor for IPPA and since 2001 as part of our Early Childhood Ireland team as an Early Childhood Specialist and more recently, as a Síolta mentor/validator and Marte Meo colleague trainer. I wanted to write a Scéalta about you for several reasons.
Of course, it is a way to wish you, our colleague and friend, well, but more importantly, it is an opportunity to share with a broader audience a little about your work ethic and dedication to children and educators within the early learning and care sector.
Always central to your values is the importance of nurturing relationships with children. The importance of relationships between children and their families, especially how much relationships with their early years educators matter. In my experience the last number of years working with you, you have always been such an advocate for children and educators. You always listened to educators, respecting all that educators do for children in our communities. You always reminded us of the importance of not only tuning into children but tuning into the wealth of knowledge and expertise of educators and their day-to-day experiences.
Throughout your work, you applied dedication and enviable patience, thoughtfulness, and an appreciation for the skills and knowledge of others. You have been a trailblazer, as our colleague Liz captured, “you are the personification of child centredness” I would go one step further and add – child centredness and an unwavering commitment to the rights of children. A colleague recently reminded me of how ‘you get upset if you see a practice that is not child-centered. Equally, you get upset if the requirements on settings are too onerous and take away from the importance of the work of being with young children.’
Lilian, we hear the term ‘values’ often spoken about, but you lived your values throughout your career. You approached everything with kindness, respect, and dedication that reflects your commitment to children and their wellbeing. Through your work with Early Childhood Ireland, you have mentored, trained, shared your knowledge, and stayed committed to sharing practices that ensure the quality of children’s day-to-day lives. You did this by keeping updated on current evidence, issues, and research within early learning and care. But most importantly, you did this collaboratively, always living and approaching your work with passion, compassion, and the most profound respect for children and adults.
Your commitment to highlighting the Marte Meo method is a piece of work that you have been passionate about over the years. You worked tirelessly with colleagues to develop a series of short videos last year to support the development of the learner’s professional knowledge, understanding, and skills that underpin nurturing relationships in an Early Learning and Care setting. ‘Inspiring Interactions with Under 2s’ was developed in consultation with Colette O’ Donovan, Licenced Marte Meo Supervisor and National Coordinator of the Marte Meo Service within Tusla.
Lilian, we wish you a happy retirement. However, I know that you will continue to make a difference to the babies and young children in your life. You’ll do this through nurturing relationships and strengthening the community of people around each child. So really, it’s not possible for you to ever retire fully, perhaps from work but not from your values. Your image of children. May you continue to thrive in all that you do – I am reminded of the words of Maria Aarts ‘when you carry with you a kind of joy, and you can deal with other people, you have so many joyful moments instead of an empty life.”
May the relationships you have nurtured throughout your life continue to fill you up. Our cups are a lot fuller because of you.
With love and best wishes for the future, Milica and the Early Childhood Ireland team.