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Tauranga teacher who encourages risky play wins top national teaching award

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TOP TEACHER: Natalie Bell will today recieve an ASG National Excellence in teaching award. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
TOP TEACHER: Natalie Bell will today recieve an ASG National Excellence in teaching award. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

A Tauranga teacher who encourages children to take risks is one of six teachers from around the country being recognised with an ASG National Excellence in Teaching Award.

Natalie Bell from Maungaarangi Kindergarten and Whanau Centre will today receive the award at an official ceremony hosted by Education Minister Hekia Parata in Wellington.

She was nominated by a parent for the "wonderful characteristics she possesses, shares and teaches and for her ability to tune into children and follow their passions and interests". She was selected from more than 200 nominations.

Ms Bell, who recently took up moto-cross, introduced bike riding to the centre in an effort to engage the boys in her care through something they would enjoy.

The children are able to gear up in their full face helmets and shoes and ride their bikes down the hill.

"It is really important for teachers to support and encourage children who are risk-takers," she said.

"It has been recognised that children who keep on trying again and again become successful life-long learners. This is a concept that excites me and it was a big step to introduce bike riding at the centre, but it has allowed our children to realise that learning does not only happen sitting in the classroom," she said.

She said it was also important that the children had a "trusted companion" to support them to reach their full potential and become capable and competent learners.

Initially it was the teachers who would comfort children who took a spill and encourage them to get up and give it another go but now the other children stop what they are doing and make sure they are okay, she said.

"It has changed how we teach, especially boys," Ms Bell said.

It taught them to keep trying when they didn't get it the first time and gave them a sense of achievement when they mastered it, she said.

Many of the girls had also embraced the opportunity to learn to ride a bike.

Moto-cross instructors were also invited in to teach children about safety and show them new manoeuvres.

Ms Bell has been teaching for 22 years and started out in Dargaville before moving to Rotorua and then taking up the job at Maungaarangi Kindergarten and Whanau Centre about six years ago.

She got into early childhood teaching when her two daughters were very young and has been passionate about it ever since.

"Every day is a good day. I absolutely love it," she said. "It's those 'ah ha' moments [when a child finally gets something] that makes me keep going."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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