GAI Scoles cried when a phone call revealed she was one of 15 teachers nationally to receive a Commonwealth Bank Foundation Teaching Award.
She was completely shocked and continues to be overwhelmed and humbled, if not a little embarrassed at all the attention.
The award was much less a surprise to her colleagues at Singleton Public School, her students and families past and present who admire a woman whose passion for teaching is so obvious.
Mrs Scoles received the award at a reception at Commonwealth Bank Place in Sydney last Thursday night. The prize included $10,000 to go towards her Kinder Kids Cafe program.
She is quick to say she didn’t invent the program and refuses to take any credit for that.
“It was a lovely idea I saw Robyn Wyborn do with her students when we were team teaching, she was an infants mistress that some people would remember,” Gai told The Singleton Argus on Friday.
“I watched her do the program and loved it, we did it together and when she retired she gave me the program and I have been doing it since,” Gai said.
Kinder Kids Cafe is a two-week intensive kindergarten numeracy program.
Students are taught the value of coins and consolidate their addition and subtraction skills in the process.
At the end of the fortnight students invite their parents as guests to the cafe and are given 35 cents to spend, applying the skills they have learnt throughout the program.
Each child receives five one cent coins, five two cent coins, two five cent coins and one ten cent coin.
“They know it is my money so they look after it and it is lovely to see them so responsible,” Gai said.
The cafe itself is a lot of fun with the classroom transformed into a restaurant complete with flower centrepieces and mood music.
The students can then purchase items that have been made and brought to school by parents.
“You know, in all this time I haven’t met a child that has been able to spend the entire 35 cents,” Gai said.
While each class group has responded slightly differently, all seem to develop a greater appreciation for the value of money and their maths improves incredibly because they can see how it works in life.
Gai would like to see the program adapted for use throughout the primary grades and says this is how she will apply the cash award.
The Teaching Awards recognise and reward inspirational teachers from schools across Australia who are making an outstanding contribution to developing the essential money management skills of Australian children.
Gai said she was in awe of the other recipients and felt like she didn’t quite belong.
“I found great inspiration in what some of the other teachers were doing and it was wonderful to hear their stories,” Gai said.