Dr Helen May, Emeritus Professor of Education, University of Otago
Helen May began her career in education as an early years teacher; later working in childcare, then teacher education. In the 1990s Helen worked with Margaret Carr, in the development of Te Whariki, the New Zealand national early childhood curriculum.
First published in 1996, Te Whāriki: He whāriki mātauranga mō ngā mokopuna o Aotearoa Early Childhood Curriculum provided a internationally celebrated framework which shaped a distinct approach to early learning in Aotearoa or New Zealand.
Unique in its bicultural framing, Te Whāriki expresses a vision that all children grow up in New Zealand as competent and confident learners, strong in their identity, language and culture. It emphasises New Zealand's bicultural foundation, its multicultural present and a shared future. It encourages all children to learn in their own ways, supported by adults who know them well and have their best interests at heart. This vision is expressed in different ways as early learning services work with parents, whānau and communities to design and implement a programme of learning and development that reflects local priorities and supports each child’s personalised learning pathway. The underpinning concept of the whāriki (mat) enables and supports this diversity.
In 1995 Helen was appointed to the first Professorial Chair in early childhood education in New Zealand, at Victoria University Wellington and in 2005 shifted to the University of Otago as the foundation Dean of the College of Education.
Helen has been involved in advocacy work and advisory roles regarding a range of policy initiatives in both New Zealand and international settings. Her research has focused on early childhood policy, history and curriculum and spoken and published widely both within New Zealand and overseas.
*Images in banner courtesy of Alastair Bett (1 and 3) and Stuart Gibson (2).