When Miki Shimpo brought her children to Weston Playcentre almost 17 years ago, she never expected to stay longer than they did.
Originally from Japan, Mrs Shimpo moved to Oamaru in 2001 with her Kiwi husband Grant Macmaster.
On a neighbour’s recommendation, they enrolled their 2-year-old daughter Hina and 6-month-old son Sen at the Weston Playcentre in 2004.
And it was not long before Mrs Shimpo was a mainstay of the playcentre.
With a background in early childhood education, Mrs Shimpo became the centre’s facilitator in 2008 – and she has worked there ever since.
Working with children brought a lot of joy and happiness to her life.
“I really enjoy spending time with children.
“It’s fun and I am happy to help their learning.”
For children 5 and under, learning with relationships was more meaningful for their future than mastering the alphabet and even babies needed communication.
Babies spoke with their eyes and expressions, Mrs Shimpo said.
This was proved when words eventually came.
“It makes me really happy when they begin to talk and call my name.”
The trick to early childhood education was simple.
“Just love them.
“[Build] good relationships and make a connection. If you don’t care, they feel it.”
She had the pleasure of watching children grow from infancy to graduating from high school.
With her daughter now studying at Otago Polytechnic in Dunedin and her son at high school, Mrs Shimpo understood how precious and fleeting those early childhood years were.
“You only have this time and this moment.”
The past 13 years working at the playcentre had gone quickly for Mrs Shimpo – and she has no plans to leave soon.
Part of what kept her at the centre for so long was the “amazing support” she had received from the “fantastic” families and mothers who helped run the centre.
She had one person to thank – her neighbour, for recommending she sent her children to Weston Playcentre all those years ago.
“I really appreciate my neighbour.”