For more than two decades Lyn Coghlan has been caring, nurturing and preparing the toddlers of Port Stephens for their big school journey.
"It has been a humbling experience and I have cherished every day of my life as an early childhood educator," said Ms Coghlan, who retired on Friday after spending the past 16 years at Angel Tots (formerly Gumnuts) childcare centre in Salamander Bay.
"This can be a very undervalued industry ... it can be very challenging but rewarding at the same time. I enjoy being involved with the parents and families as much as the children who attend.
"I have also been proud to be part of the lives of so many local families and I have loved my time as the centre, working with the fabulous educators, the leadership team and staff.
"There have been times when parents of siblings of children approach me in the street or shopping centre to thank me for being part of their early childhood journey. That is the most rewarding part of the job."
A former special education teacher, Ms Coghlan, from Boat Harbour, said that as a mother of two children she decided on a career in childcare because "I understood how hard it is for some parents to leave children in the care of someone else".
"Our role as educators is to be there for the children, to ensure they are much loved and safe. I also see it as our role to help the children better themselves while preparing them for their future."
She said that she would miss the team environment and the children's joys and laughter.
"I will miss the children, it is there enthusiasm that keep me young."
Melinda Lewis and Karin Hensley, on behalf of the Tiny Angels staff, said that Ms Coghlan's retirement would leave a big hole at the centre.
"For almost two decades Lyn has been loved by the children, families and educators and will be sorely missed."
State MP Kate Washington presented Ms Coghlan with a certificate during her last week at Angel Tots.
"Quality early education is the key to a brighter future. For a long time Lyn has been quietly unlocking the potential in our youngest learners with a great deal of care. So it was wonderful to join everyone at Angel Tots early learning centre to thank Lyn for her important contribution to our community's future," Ms Washington said.
Ms Coghlan said that she hoped, in retirement, to spend more quality time with her husband, children and grandchildren.
"I would also like to become more actively involved in the community and take part in some volunteer work in support of the elderly in the community."
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