Working as an early childhood teacher is not only a satisfying job but an important one too, says Phillip Ozzane.

The teacher educator who specialises in early childhood education worked for 10 years in ECE down in Wellington before shifting to Tauranga to take up his role at the Bethlehem Teaching Institute.

“I loved working with the children on areas they were passionate about, like if they were building things in the sandpit you’d talk about the science and the mathematics behind it,” he recalls.

“As an ECE teacher you’re in a privileged position to be there at the start of their learning journey. “Now I get to teach the ECE teachers and it’s fantastic.”

Phillip is the lead organiser for the 10th annual EC-MENz summit, which takes place at BTI from this afternoon until Sunday.

EC-Menz is a network of men and women dedicated to highlighting the important roles men play in New Zealand’s ECE sector.

According to the Ministry of Education, there were 494 men working in ECE across New Zealand, while males made up two per cent of all teachers in 2014.

Here in the Bay, there’s currently about 16 male ECE teachers, says Phillip.

“It’s important we have a gender balance across all sectors of the workforce and that children see men and women working alongside each other in all forms of employment.

“The stereotypical barriers of ‘this is a man’s job, this is a woman’s job’ are coming down and its becoming more acceptable for people to work in those careers compared to the past.”

But Phillip is also aware many men are scared off the job due to fears of being falsely accused of crimes against children.

“You can’t go into any job scared, otherwise you’d never work. Fear doesn’t stop those who are truly passionate about educating young children.

“I’d recommend visiting centres where there is a male teacher to see what it’s like so they can learn about the difficulties but also the range of positive outcomes they’ve experienced.”

Phillip says many institutes offer ECE qualifications, like Bay of Plenty Polytech, Waikato University and BTI.

“Men and women are most welcome to pop into BTI and talk to us about what it’s like to work in ECE. I’d say come to us but Waikato and BOP might argue differently,” he says laughing.

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