Profile: Nikki Joyce, Principal, Saint Kentigern Preschool


What attracted you to this particular leadership/principal role?

As a parent of two Saint Kentigern boys for 13 years, I was excited at the proposition of joining the same organisation which had seen them grow and develop throughout their schooling lives.

Being offered the opportunity to work with an organisation with such strong values that are evident in every decision made, and that prides itself in being a learning organisation for all involved, made it an exciting proposition.


How would you describe your preschool?

Saint Kentigern Preschool prepares children to be lifelong learners by offering an inspiring environment, enabling children to build confidence and learn to collaborate with others through strong relationships. We inspire our children to achieve success and fulfil their creative, social, academic and cultural potential through a wide range of experiences and we enjoy watching the children and their whānau grow through embracing the Saint Kentigern values and the joy of collaborative learning.

Our exceptional team of teachers use research to ensure our children are offered rich experiences in all areas of the curriculum, and have a strong culture of using ongoing professional development to facilitate teacher growth.


What do you hope to achieve through your leadership/what are your future ambitions for the preschool?

Through leadership I aim to create a place where everyone can learn and continue to grow, not only the children but my staff and families as well. My ambition is to inspire everyone involved with the preschool to become better people, through kindness, respect, collaboration and building confidence in all those around me, as they continue to learn and strive for excellence along the way.


Can you briefly describe your career pathway?

I actually started my working life in the medical field, training as a cardiac and respiratory technologist. After taking on management roles within my DHB, I decided it was time to break out on my own and follow in my parents' footsteps of owning my own business. In the medical field, ongoing professional development is hugely important, and as education had always been a priority for me – and having two young children of my own at the time – I was inspired to move into early childhood education.

I opened my first centre in Herne Bay, as part of the Bear Park franchise, in 2007. During this time I understood the need to undertake as much learning as I could and attended many conferences both in New Zealand and overseas in Australia and twice in Reggio Emilia in Italy. I also thrived in watching my own staff grow with teachers moving on to purchase their own centres, become lecturers at tertiary institutes, and take on centre manager roles throughout New Zealand and Australia.

After selling the franchised centre, I purchased an existing centre in Whitford which I owned for five years.

During this time I also completed the directors course through the Institute of Directors, as working within the governance area has always been an area of passion for me.

The opportunity to work once again for a large organisation when the Saint Kentigern role arose was exciting as it combined not only my passion of leading high-quality early childhood services, but also working closely with a governance board.


Were there any particularly enlightening moments or inspirational people who set you on your way?

There have been many people throughout my life who have both inspired me, and shown me what not to do. But over the last few years, my leadership practice has been greatly shaped by both Brene Brown and Simon Sinek.

More locally however, I have enjoyed watching how Peter Cassie at Saint Kentigern Boys’ School has developed so many of his own staff into leaders who have gone onto senior leadership positions at other schools. Developing my own staff has always been a passion, so to watch Peter thrive as his own staff move onto higher roles is also inspiring.


How would you describe your leadership philosophy?

My leadership philosophy would be empowering others, whilst forming cohesive, trusting teams who collaborate and are not afraid to debate ideas (in a respectful way). I have an expectation that my team will embrace opportunities given to them, but will also give back through innovative ideas, research and support of each other.


Can you share your thoughts about independent education – in a preschool context – in New Zealand and internationally?

Having a preschool as a part of an independent primary and/or secondary school provides a strong start to any child’s educational experience. The ability to have the children exposed to the values of the organisation, as well as the ability to ensure that the curriculum and experiences they have flow from preschool through to primary school, ensures that the transition is seamless.

In the early childhood education arena, the Ministry of Education and Education Review Office do not differentiate between independent preschools and other privately-owned centres, so expectations remain the same for all. Our parents, however, like any independent school parents, have expectations of both quality and excellence, and the ability to ensure our teachers can provide that is naturally more important than in other early childhood education services.


What do you see as the benefits of working at an independent preschool?

Being able to work closely with an organisation that provides education from 3-18 years of age allows everyone to have a vision of how to provide the best possible educational experience for the child. Being able to have a strong two-way relationship with the new entrant teachers who will be teaching our children, ensures that the primary teachers understand what is important at the preschool stage as we prepare them not only for their first years at school, but also with skills they will need for life.

As an independent preschool, we are also able to attract teachers who have a passion for excellence in their own practice, and who will make the most of our commitment to them to continue their career development.


What do you see as the benefits for students of attending an independent preschool attached to a school?

Our children, being at the first step in a large organisation means that they can be exposed early on to what is considered important in their learning for the next 15 years. Setting up the life skills that will help them excel, such as collaboration and resilience, ensures that as they transition through their educational years these experiences will come more naturally.

Again, having a working knowledge of the organisation’s values helps both children and their families to not only feel comfortable but to thrive as they transition into the primary school community as well. The children can feel comfortable in their intrinsic knowledge of right and wrong in that context, and through the values the families form strong connections with each other as well.

Lastly, our parents have high aspirations for their children, and being able to offer specialist teachers to support these dreams is of great benefit. Being exposed to languages at a young age has many proven benefits, as do the performing arts, and being able to offer these additional experiences allows us to support our children in additional ways.