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Now the Bayfield Kindergarten teacher is considering getting a black and yellow-striped cape to go with them, after winning an Early Childhood Education (ECE) Hero Award yesterday.
Over the past year, she has led her pupils, their families and the local community in an amazing development of what was a wasteland area at the back of the kindergarten, into a thriving eco-friendly bee garden.
She has also installed bee hives so her pupils can get hands-on learning about the importance of bees in our eco-system.
The garden and beehive had provided a wealth of knowledge and an exciting shared resource for the pupils and their community, she said.
"The children have really gotten to know what these bees are.
"They appreciate the bees, they understand that they are pollinating the plants and the plants are feeding us.
"No-one would dare step on or swat at a bee now. It’s been a wonderful education for everyone.
"Some of the old folks from the area are handing over plants from their own gardens to put in our bee garden.
"It’s a constant source of joy for the children."
At a time when the media was filled with so much death and mayhem associated with the Covid pandemic, the bee garden was providing a great distraction for pupils by focusing on a major part of the life cycle, she said.
"The whole bee life is a metaphor for hope.
"They work together to achieve goals, just like New Zealanders at the moment."
Ms Shurbutt was humbled by the award.
"It’s wonderful to see that what ECE teachers are doing, is being recognised, because our job is important and the children that we teach are important.
The award was one of 11 given to ECE teachers around the country, as part of New Zealand’s annual Children’s Day celebrations.
New Zealand Educational Institute national executive early childhood education representative Virginia Oakly said the awards recognised the winners and their teams for showing heroism in their profession after a particularly tough year.
"We asked parents, educators, and those in the wider community to tell us about the heroism they’ve seen in early childhood education, and we were blown away.
"The nominations tell a story of dedicated, talented experts throughout the country who really care about the tamariki they work with and the communities they work in.
"The panel had a tough time making their decisions, but the people they’ve chosen have all made incredible contributions to the profession, and to their communities."