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Surprise party for 80-year-old Tywford day nursery practitioner


Lured to work for another training session, Colleen Kirk, was surprised by parents and children, past and present, from Cedar Park Day Nursery in Tywford with a birthday party to celebrate her 80th birthday.

A practitioner at the day nursery in Bridge Farm Road, Colleen was presented with armfuls of fresh orchids brought by a parent returning from overseas, cake, balloons and the hugs she has come to cherish from children she has cared for during the last five years.

Struggling to keep the tears at bay because she didn’t want to “upset my children”, the delighted practitioner announced that as long as she could do her job well, and she was still needed, there would be no thought of retirement.

“This is without doubt the best job in the world. Where else would you get hugs every day and a little one telling you they love you. I love my work and defy anyone to find a better, more dedicated and supportive team of colleagues,” she said.

Cedar Park Team Leader, Stella Lewendon, who was responsible for the surprise party, described Colleen as the matriarch in their nursery family beloved by children, parents and her colleagues.

“She is quite simply adored by everyone. The fact that she was willing to come to nursery on a Saturday for more training is just one example of her dedication, professionalism and desire to learn. She is a wonderful role model for our younger colleagues and a great friend to us all,” she said.

‘Empty nest syndrome’ after her grandson, Joseph Burtwell now nine years old, started mainstream schooling, drove Colleen, a retired Nottingham nurse, into her second career, aged 75, and the active days she craved .

“I have a wonderful husband and great friends but after Joseph went to school I was so bored and desperate for something meaningful to do. I was walking my dog past Cedar Park Day Nursery and heard the children playing. Quite simply, I wanted to be a part of that,” said Colleen who following retirement had volunteered at a Winchester hospital and sailed with her husband to France and in the Solent.

Although she applied for a cleaning job, her talents at interview were quickly recognised and she started at the nursery providing ‘Lunch time cover’ and soon afterwards graduated to practitioner.

An early riser, Colleen, who is a ‘key’ worker to five children, likes to be in nursery at 6.30 in the morning to make sure her rooms and equipment are ready for the day and the breakfast is laid out for the children.

Kathryn Strickland, 19, who started at the nursery as a part-timer when she was 17 and studying Health and Social Care at College, works with Colleen in the preschool room.

“She greets the staff team with a big smile and a hug when we come in at 7.15 and you know it is going to be a great day. She’s amazing. What I admire most is her commitment to doing everything well; the fact that she is always available if you need advice and is interested in my ideas. We learn from each other; we are a team,” said Kathryn who is studying in her spare time for an NVQ Level 2 Early Years qualification.

As to the future, Colleen, who is the mother of Jonathan, her grandson’s father, and James, a horse rider and Dressage Judge, has regular medical check-ups and plans to continue at the nursery. “My doctor says my health is great because I am active and love my work. My children are too important to me to do a bad job. When I can’t do it well … I will walk away,” said Colleen.

Her company, the award-winning, employee-owned Childbase Partnership, have arranged for a chauffeur-driven night out at the ballet with dinner, as a birthday present.

Pictures: Colleen and Amber Ripley (4) reading in the pre-school room at Cedar Park Day Nursery in Twyford.

click here for more details or to contact Cedar Park Day Nursery (Twyford)