It's obvious from the smile in her voice that Kim Grealy loves her job as an early childhood educator in Canberra.
The 28-year-old educator at the Gold Creek World of Learning in Nicholls has been named a regional finalist in G8 Education's 2019 Standout Educator Awards program.
She was selected from 11,000 educators across the country
"I feel quite overwhelmed because it was out of 11,000 people," she said.
"I just come in every day and be myself. I don't try to gain anything from it. To have the recognition for the simple things I do and the fact I come in to work every day with a smile on my face, is really rewarding."
Kim was nominated by her parents and peers for her outstanding contribution to the wellbeing and healthy development of the children in her care.
She has been at Gold Creek World of Learning for four years, completing her diploma and now working on her bachelor of early childhood education to become a teacher. She says the early childhood years are so important and she wants to stay in the sector.
"I think it's the connections and relationships I build with the children and their families," she said.
"The first thing the kids want when they see me in the morning is a cuddle and they show they want me here and that makes me special and valued. And everything the kids give me, I give back to them."'
Kim's own children James, now 7, and Kate, five, also attended Gold Creek World of Learning before she joined the staff.
"I could see they were loved and cared for and I wanted to be part of that," she said.
Kim has been in the babies' room for two years but worked across the centre. She is about to see her first cohort of children graduate from the centre to go to big school.
"I think I've looked after just about every child in every room," she said.
Kim now goes in the running to be named one of six national finalists. Winners will be announced on Wednesday, Early Childhood Educator's Day, when early learning services across the country celebrate the important role educators play in supporting the development of Australia's children.
Kim says she feels her work is valued. One parent even wrote: "Kim was our saviour, for my daughter and myself. She embraced my child and loved her like she was her own. She took time out of her day to ensure she felt safe and supported".
"My centre director has been so supportive and put up notices about the award everywhere," Kim said.
"And the parents are also so appreciative. They are the ones who say, 'You're doing an awesome job, you deserve this'."
Gold Creek World of Learning centre manager Rachel Bonfield said the recognition was testament to Kim's dedication.
"The Standout Educator Awards highlight the special contribution educators like Kim make to the lives of the children attending our centre," Rachel said.
"To be selected is not only reward for Kim's dedication to going above and beyond each and every day but it also emphasises the special bond that she has with the children.
"Her passion for reconciliation and for embedding Indigenous culture into our service is infectious and inspiring and as result she was recently appointed Reconciliation and Indigenous Culture Leader here at Gold Creek World of Learning and has already made some amazing changes to our practices."
Now in its third year, G8 Education's Standout Educator Awards program provides recognition for the important role early childhood educators play in the lives of families across the country.