Alison Burns describes her South Coast family day care as an "extended family" and after watching families grow up for over a decade she's been recognised on a national level.
The educator runs the Eurobodalla Family Day Care in her Dalmeny home, 12 kilometres north of Narooma.
"To me, it's just one great big family and kids are just so much fun and you learn from the kids just as much as you're teaching them," Mrs Burns said.
She was awarded the Wollongong, Illawarra & South Coast educator winner in the Excellence in Family Day Care Awards.
The mother-of-three made the switch from retail to family day care 16 years ago in a bid to juggle work and raising her young family.
"I needed to be home for my own children when they finished schools themselves, I needed to earn an income and child care can be expensive as well," Mrs Burns said.
Unlike child care centres, family day cares are run in the educators' own home and the business hours are flexible.
This is helpful for parents working night shifts or irregular hours such as health care workers, Mrs Burns said.
The awards by peak body Family Day Care Australia (FDCA) recognised Mrs Burns for her achievements and approach to early childhood education.
"Alison's unique and nurturing approach to early years education and her dedication to children and families is the reason why so many choose family day care," Family Day Care Australia CEO, Andrew Paterson said.
Mrs Burns said it is important to have these awards to recognise educators' hard work and to combat the stigma that family day cares are a "babysitting service".
As Illawarra families navigate preschool and childcare shortages, Mrs Burns said in the past three to four years her Family Daycare has been at maximum capacity. In 2022 she had 20 kids on her waiting list.
"Getting children into care centres, preschools, and family day care anywhere is actually really hard at the moment," she said.
Mrs Burns is now in the running to be named the 2023 Educator of the Year Award on November 25.
Four finalists will be announced on October 17.
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