What it takes to be Parent of the Year

American educator and politician Jane D. Hull said “At the end of the day, the most overwhelming key to a child’s success is the positive involvement of parents.”

Lucky is the school that has a strong and involved parent body. Not only are they involved in the P&C and on the school board, they’re in class helping with reading, they’re raising funds and organising events. They’re running the uniform shop and canteen, breakfast clubs, busy bees, kitchen gardens and school banking. Their circle of influence stretches far beyond their own child, reaping positive effects for the entire school community.

Read the Term 4 edition of School News HERE

The NSW Minister’s and Secretary’s Awards for Excellence acknowledge not only frontline educators and school-based staff, but the other vital ingredient in a successful school community – parents. The Public School Parent of the Year Award is a prestigious award presented to parents, guardians and caregivers who have made a significant contribution to their local NSW public school community.

In 2023, 12 awards were presented to parents from schools across the state, from Tuggerawong to Terrigal.

We spoke with one of the winners, Nicole Hilder, who has had two sons complete their primary education at Terrigal Primary School, a school of around 900 students from K-6 located on the central coast of NSW.

Terrigal Primary fluro night disco

“The school is a dynamic community school that resembles the friendly coast lifestyle,” says Nicole “The minute you walk in the front gates you are greeted by the friendly executive committee, vibrant staff, amazing students, and friendly parents. For many children that attend this school, there is a long family history with their parents, grandparents and great grandparents having all attended Terrigal Public School.”

Despite working full-time, she has held a role on the P&C for the past 11 years, starting as Events Coordinator when her eldest son started school. Her job as a Retail Property Manager was an unexpected asset.

“When my eldest was in Kindergarten I received a phone call from another parent asking if I could help with organising some donations for the upcoming fair at the school,” explains Nicole. “Given I worked at the local shopping centre, they thought I might be able to help…the rest is history.”

After moving on to Vice President, Nicole was elected P&C President in 2016, completing two terms with a small break due to COVID. But as you would expect, anyone nominated for Parent of the Year would have an impressive resume.

“I was nominated by the Principal and the staff of the school for my volunteering and fundraising efforts over the past 11 years. I have been the co-ordinator for three family fun fairs, the annual Mother’s Day and Father’s Day stalls, school discos, colour runs and numerous other annual fund-raising activities. I have also overseen the management of the canteen and uniform shop.”

She adds, “In addition to fundraising, I have had the privilege of sitting on the teacher panels for the past six years to ensure that we get the best teachers in the best roles at Terrigal Public School. I also worked with the committee and executive on the design, planning and construction of the new school which saw a very successful major expansion of the school building five years ago. Terrigal Public School now has a best-in-class learning environment for our students.”

But while Nicole has taken home the individual award, she is quick to point out that volunteering is a group activity and there are lots of benefits for those who get involved.

“The P&C is as fun as you wish to make it,” Nicole says. “I use the analogy at the Kindergarten Orientation, that the teachers and students bake the cake and then the P&C come along and put the icing on it. We get the fun bits! We have a fantastic fun committee; I have made some lifelong friends through the school and the P&C who I wouldn’t have met if I hadn’t taken up the offer to help with the Fun Fair 11 years ago.”

She is immensely proud of the P&C’s contribution to the school over the years: “Annually the P&C gives back around $50k to the school.  These funds pay towards the school chaplain, technology, learning subscriptions, Stephanie Alexander Kitchen, and Bush Tucker Garden just to name a few.”

Nicole is a firm believer in public education and a strong advocate. “I hope that this has been demonstrated through my years of being part of the P&C and trying to make Public Schools the best place for education. Terrigal Public School really resonates with the saying “It takes a village to raise a child”.

Tewrrigal Family Fun Fair

The Importance of Recognition

Nicole didn’t realise the full significance of the Minister’s Award until she was sitting on stage at the Sydney Town Hall with the nominees from the other schools.

My dad told me many years ago, ‘Don’t ever volunteer to be recognised, do it for your own self-worth’ but my dad wasn’t entirely correct,” admits Nicole. “It has been lovely to be recognised by both the school and the Department of Education… [I] love that they hold such awards.”

Perhaps what her Dad meant, was that volunteering doesn’t need to be done with an Award effort in mind, something Nicole would agree with. Not everyone can offer the amount of time Nicole and the other Parents of the Year have been able to, and there is no expectation that they should.

“Volunteering could be a day a week, a minute a month or a second a year – it’s whatever time someone can help.”  

With her youngest son now graduating to high school, Nicole will be moving on from her role at the P&C. It must feel like an enormous loss to the primary school community.

Clearly Terrigal Primary is doing something right though, to not only attract long-term volunteers like Nicole, but to keep them as well. A clue to what that might be is in her earlier words: The minute you walk in the front gates you are greeted by the friendly executive committee, vibrant staff, amazing students, and friendly parents.

The P&C might be the one who gets to ice the cake, but a successful school requires all ingredients to play its role.

Nicole and her son at the Colour Run

School News wishes to congratulate and thank all the parents who have received NSW Minister’s and Secretary’s Awards for Excellence, as well as the countless thousands of others who contribute every day to our schools across the nation.

2023 Winners of the Parent of the Year

Shannon Meyerkort

Shannon Meyerkort is a freelance writer and the author of "Brilliant Minds: 30 Dyslexic Heroes Who Changed our World", now available in all good bookstores.

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