Growing up in the Netherlands, Bonnie Finnema remembers being surrounded by other children.
Her mother offered child care in her home in Haarlem, North Holland, and Bonnie loved helping out and playing with the infants and toddlers. The family also hosted exchange students on a regular basis.
“I was inspired to become the same caring and loving person as my Mum,” says Bonnie, who is looking forward to joining friends graduating with EIT’s Bachelor of Teaching (Early Childhood Education).
It’s been a determined journey. Moving to New Zealand from Europe as an eight-year-old, she spoke only a few words of English. Bonnie and her family travelled around the country in a van for six months before her parents chose Hawke’s Bay to settle.
“I loved it,” she says of this introduction to her new homeland, “sleeping in a tent and not going to school.”
Bonnie found New Zealand provided many opportunities for engaging with nature – something she likes to do.
“The Netherlands has a much denser population,” she explains. “It’s an eighth of the area of New Zealand and has more than four times the number of people. And New Zealand is more laid back. Everyone in the Netherlands is in a hurry.”
Although she had to work hard on her English, Bonnie is satisfied now with her language skills.
After finishing Napier Girls’ High School, she took a gap year, working at a ski resort in Switzerland, travelling around the UK and camping in the Netherlands. She then launched into tertiary studies in Hawke’s Bay.
“I liked EIT,” she says. “The teachers were well-informed and professional. I thought it was a good experience although it was a lot of hard work and study.”
For three years, she worked as an unpaid volunteer at Greenmeadows Kindergarten, meeting the degree requirement for 12 hours practical experience a week. She gained further workplace experience through placements with centres that have different philosophies and cater for children of different ages.
While every age has its attractions, Bonnie found she prefers teaching children aged three to five. And that is what she is doing, working for the Napier Kindergarten Association as a contracted relieving teacher for its 16 kindergartens.
Because she feels the association offers great opportunities longer term, Bonnie has chosen not to pursue openings at other early childhood centres. Instead she hopes to eventually find a permanent position at a local kindergarten.
“I like that the association sets high standards and that it requires all teachers to be qualified to work in its kindergartens.”
With her partner here in Hawke’s Bay, the 22-year-old is also happy to live locally, boosting her income with babysitting and nannying jobs.
“I don’t really like big cities,” she says. “I like Hawke’s Bay. I love what I have chosen – it’s definitely the right path for me.”