To Ms Pooja Vishindas, the Chief Curriculum Officer at Nurture Education Group, the early childhood education sector is a place to grow as a person, both professionally and personally. Since joining the sector in 2002, she has been scaling new heights with one key objective in mind - to impact the lives of young children.
Ms Pooja Vishindas, Chief Curriculum Officer, Nurture Education Group
One can only say that Pooja Vishindas was born to be an early childhood educator.
The 37-year-old, who currently helms the curriculum team at Nurture Education Group as the Chief Curriculum Officer, says she knew she wanted to work with young children and impact their lives positively since she was a teenager.
At 16 years old, while most are usually undecided about their future, Ms Pooja was resolved to teach young children. Following her ‘O’ Levels, she took up the Diploma in Preschool Teaching (DPT) course offered by Ngee Ann Polytechnic in 2002.
Her first foray into teaching young children took place during her practicum sessions. After graduation, Ms Pooja joined a private child care organisation as a teacher and worked her way up to become a senior teacher within five years.
Determined to improve her knowledge and skills, she went on to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education in 2005 and made it to the Dean’s Merit List.
On why she enjoys working in the early childhood sector, Ms Pooja said it is the innocent smiles, unbridled laughter and warm hugs from children that make it all worthwhile.
“You just can’t put a price on that feeling. I find it both an honour and a reward to be entrusted to care, guide and nurture children,” she says.
“Once, when I returned to work after my leave, the children excitedly ran over to hug me and said “I miss you!”. They even asked why I didn’t take them along. In addition, it is very rewarding to see children who were once under my care, do well academically and become top students in their schools now.”
In 2012, Ms Pooja decided to take on a new challenge - to be the Chief Curriculum Officer in the Nurture Education Group. She has never looked back since.
In her present role, one of her main responsibilities is to ensure that the curriculum used in different pre-school brands under the Nurture Education Group is aligned with the company’s vision, mission and core values.
To achieve this, she makes regular visits to Little Footprint and Kiddiwinkie Schoolhouse (under Nurture Education Group) to conduct in-house curriculum trainings, as well as to render support to principals and teachers.
When asked how she motivates her educators, Ms Pooja says this is what she would tell the educators: “Treat every child as your own. Work with them, learn alongside with them and rediscover the world we live in through their eyes. Remember to bring out the best in every child. Be playful and have fun. If you are having fun in the class, I am sure the children are having fun too.”
Besides gaining feedback from the adults, Ms Pooja occasionally sets time aside to visit the children too.
“Now that I work mostly with adults, I do miss being around children. Sometimes I would take some time away from my work to interact with the children in class – their pure candour and fresh perspectives teach me many things about myself,” she says.
Though no longer teaching children in the classroom, Ms Pooja still makes an impact in their learning journey by creating innovative pre-school programmes such as the “Bear Walk Movement”, which seeks to help pre-schoolers improve their literacy skills.
She was also involved in the development of other programmes such as the “Tick, Tock, It’s Time to Talk!” session that helps develop public speaking and presentation skills, as well as the “Recycling Books for A Cause” project that teaches children the importance of sustainability and caring for the environment.
While Ms Pooja is not directly involved in the recruitment of new teachers, she plays an active role in helping to attract talent through career networking sessions organised by the Human Resource department.
During these events, she inspires potential candidates to become early childhood educators by sharing anecdotes from her 15 years in the early childhood education sector and the career paths available. She also helps in the retention of current staff through Nurture Education Group’s Training and Development Programme, Mentorship Programme and staff bonding sessions.
Ms Pooja pointed out that the most challenging aspect of her multifaceted job is coming up with ways to help the group stand out from the competition and stay ahead of the curve.
Ms Christina Yong, one of the cluster principals within the Nurture Education Group, lauded Ms Pooja for her dedication to the job. She said that the latter is always willing to go the extra mile to help her colleagues.
“Pooja always encourages and motivates the principals, teachers and staff. I remembered a time when my workload was overwhelming, I texted Ms Pooja regarding some curriculum questions. She sensed that I needed support and took the initiative to call me. She lent me her listening ear, even though it was past midnight!” said Ms Yong.
“She not only listened but also offered suggestions. I sincerely appreciate her thoughtfulness and eagerness to help, even though she wasn’t obliged to. Her unconditional help really encouraged me during that period.”
Looking ahead, Ms Pooja believes that she will never leave the early childhood education sector.
“This is a very meaningful mission I have been entrusted with. I get to make an impact in the lives of the principals, teachers and the children under their care.”
“My greatest satisfaction is when I see principals leading with confidence, teachers delivering the programme with passion, and last but never the least, the children developing their potentials,” she says.
She would like more passionate people to join the industry as there are now many career development opportunities in the sector. However, she strongly recommends that one should start as an early childhood educator because the experience gained during this phase will be vital for the progression to more senior roles.
She adds: “The early childhood education sector is really a place where you can grow as a person, both professionally and personally. Take every opportunity to learn so that you can deepen your skills, and this will, in turn, prepare you for a bigger job role as you develop your career in the sector.”
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