Pictured left: Mum Alice, Nanny Intern Leigh, Benji, Alex, Paige and baby Molly.
After doing some research online, Leigh soon discovered the PORSE Nanny Intern Programme in her hometown of Pukekohe and signed up straight away.
“I was immediately drawn to the hands-on experience because I liked the idea of forming close knit, one-on-one relationships with the children and their families,” she said.
“I always had my mind set on a career with children, ever since I was a kid myself - and I couldn't be happier with the journey I have taken.”
During the 21-week PORSE Nanny Intern Programme, Leigh worked through the National Certificate in Early Childhood Education and Care (Level 3), which included a mix of practical and theory-based learning. The course included a placement as a nanny intern, working for a local family 21 hours per week.
On top of this practical experience, Leigh was in the classroom one day each week, soaking up information on early childhood education, such as attachment theory, the importance of routines and early brain development.
“Throughout my training I spent six months caring for a ten-month-old baby boy and I formed a really close bond with him. That’s when I knew 100 per cent, this was the career for me.
“I learned a lot about how to teach children and nurture their development. I feel so lucky to have found something I’m so passionate about.”
After finishing her studies, Leigh started work with the Van der Heydens - a lively family with four children under five in Pukekohe.
Far from being overwhelmed, she thrived in the busy environment and grew to take on more and more responsibility over a year and a half.
“When I started with them, Molly, the youngest, was just a newborn, Benji was one and a half, Paige, three and Alex, four. We are so close, they are like my family.
“Seeing the children grow and develop and knowing I was a big part of that has been a huge sense of achievement.”
When the family moved to Hamilton three months ago, Leigh relocated to Auckland and started working for Chris and Carol Rayes caring for ten-month-old Conrad four days per week.
On Monday’s though, she still makes a two hour round trip from Auckland to work for the Van der Heydens in Hamilton, something she always looks forward to.
Alice Van der Heyden said her children had formed a special connection with Leigh.
“They were so happy to be able to continue the relationship, despite reduced hours. The kids get so excited knowing Monday is a ‘Leigh day’ - they have all grown up with her - Molly, our youngest, has known Leigh since she was born.”
Her trust in Leigh was so great the young nanny was chosen as the first person to have all four children to stay overnight.
“One of her strengths is that she’s really keen to learn and she is incredibly capable, she has all four of them for sleepovers on her own, and was the first person to do that.”
Leigh enjoys a change in pace and loves having different experiences with two families in the same week.
“There’s such a different dynamic between the two families I work with but that’s exactly what I love about it.
“I am always challenged and continue to grow everyday - I couldn't have asked for a better job.”