2022 Annual Letter
Hello Choklits Community,
It’s the time of year we find ourselves reflecting on what’s been an incredible year at Choklits and sharing our thoughts on the journey of 2022. Some of you will have read many Annual Letters in your years at Choklits, while for others, this may be your first. Let’s start by introducing ourselves: we are Jade and Matt and we own Choklits, that’s our two children Hubert and Abigail with us above. We’ve had the privilege of both enjoying established relationships and welcoming lots of new families and colleagues into the Choklits family over the past year.
Leading Choklits this year has been great fun for both of us. We believe childhood is not just the first stage of life; it’s the most important, so we take great pride in everything that happens at Choklits. To our entire community, thank you for being part of Choklits and thank you for trusting us with your children, it’s a responsibility we absolutely love.
Our history now spans almost 30 years, and we often think about the significance of that. We wonder if, when Barbra and her friend Norma had the idea to start a child care centre in Ringwood in 1994, she could have ever imagined that her son’s misspelt word “Choklits” would provide all the opportunities it does today.
As an organisation, we certainly took advantage of many opportunities that presented themselves to us this year – 2022 has been massive!
We grew from one centre to three, almost tripled our community, quadrupled our team, had countless special moments of learning and growth with our children, helped almost 50 of them graduate kindergarten and get ready for school, welcomed many new families into our community, and even managed to have a few laughs along the way. There’s also been more than a few bumps in the road that was 2022, but from all of our end-of-year gatherings, catch-ups and reflections with our team, we’ve concluded that every bump has been worth enduring for what we’ve been able to achieve and the learning opportunities our children have had.
It’s often said that you’re only as good as your people, and there’s no truer statement in the early learning sector. Our team of educators, specialists, support staff, and experts is everything; they are what makes Choklits special. In a period of extreme labour shortages globally, we have been lucky enough to attract and recruit some of our industry’s best people. It’s a testament to our brand and our existing team that more want to be part of the Choklits adventure. If we were forced to choose one highlight from this year, that’d be number one – we’ve found some incredibly talented people. And, there’s so much more to come for us all.
Our first big challenge of the year was turning Canterbury Road Child Care Centre into Choklits Surrey Hills in March. The previous owners originally opened the centre in late 2019 before the chaos of COVID-19 hit in early 2020. After rebranding, we were very fortunate to have many of our key team members from Ringwood assist us in Surrey Hills and help us with the transition. We were also very fortunate to find many beautiful families already at the centre who welcomed us with open arms. Led by Centre Director, the incredible Qing Lui, our team spent the majority of the year first implementing and then delivering the Choklits Curriculum while simultaneously adding several new experiences, including all our regular incursions and extra-curricular learning activities, to the program. Our connections also led to the organisation of visits from local Police and Firefighters, both of which were incredibly engaging and successful hits with the children. Fast forward to the fun we all had together at our end-of-year centre party, and knowing all the new families who are joining us next year – what amazing relationships we’ve built within our Surrey Hills Community! 2023 looks set to be a great year of growth and welcoming many more opportunities to keep building strong relationships and connections at Choklits Surrey Hills.
A short six months after putting up Choklits signs in Surrey Hills, we acquired Milestone Child Care and Kindergarten and rebranded it as Choklits Croydon. Like Choklits Ringwood, Milestone had a long local history, so has been a great addition to the Choklits family. To add to the excitement, we were fortunate to have some of our existing team members join us in Croydon to assist with the transition. Choklits Croydon is a big centre so we have to mention Sue Brewer and Dee Wasserfall, who both, regardless of the task, throw their hearts and souls behind any project that will benefit the Choklits Community. Like Surrey Hills, we quickly added lots to the curriculum and hosted the first ever centre Christmas Party. A big thanks to all the existing educators and families for welcoming us to Croydon and embracing Choklits. Looking forward, we have a fantastic team led by our new Centre Director, the talented Deb Prelorenzo, who are all committed to making 2023 the best year ever for everyone.
We are not sure why or how luck happens, but when it does, you should take a moment to recognise it. One of the luckiest moments of our lives has been the opportunity to buy Choklits in Ringwood. Just over 6 years ago we purchased the centre and met the lovely Sue Brewer, fantastic Jodi McVea and one-of-a-kind Tracey Perkins, all of whom are still at Choklits today and have a combined 53 years of service! It was upon their dedication and leadership that we began to grow the Ringwood team to where it is today – a team that has continued to exceed all of our expectations and deliver our high quality curriculum full of extra activities, more and more of which now happen outside of the Choklits grounds. Post Office visits, weekly excursions to the library, and trips to the botanical gardens are all great examples, and opportunities the children have to connect with their community. Our kindergarten class even made their own movies this year (including writing the script, designing and making the costumes, and starring in lead roles) – you can see them all on our Choklits YouTube Channel.
On to the year’s other accomplishments. Firstly, it would not be a complete year at Choklits if we didn’t publish another book! This year we released our 5th book, and 3rd in the Chokliteers series, titled “The Chesterfield Farm Adventures”. Based on the experiences and relationships of the kindergarten children, we think it’s our best one yet, and we are super proud of it. Some of our kindergarten children have taken their connections with the story to the next level. learning how to draw the Chokliteers with illustrator, David Brewer. Please check out this post to see their progress.
One of the other reasons we are very proud of Choklits is the inclusive environment we’ve built. It’s really important to us that Choklits is a place where everyone has the opportunity to share their contributions and voices. Over the past year, one of the most striking ways of highlighting inclusion has been through including Auslan (Australian Sign Language) in the learning program. We’re lucky to have dedicated educators (both Deaf and hearing) who have introduced Auslan to the children as part of the learning program. Seeing children use sign language to communicate with others, being privileged to learn about Deaf culture, and expanding their understanding of how people use different ways to communicate puts a huge smile on our faces!
There’s a reason we do all this, why our own children attended Choklits, and why we absolutely love what we do. Science and research are now starting to uncover the real benefits of early childhood development, which are wildly underestimated. 90% of our brain’s capacity develops before we are 5 years old. It turns out being a child is pretty darn important! Much of what we learn in our early years stays with us, often for the rest of our lives. With age, it becomes more difficult to change habits and behaviours that have been learned and ingrained. Getting a head start early in life is proving to be more important than many of us ever thought. For us, contributing to the most significant phase of human development gets us excited every single day.
More broadly, our goal has always been to make Choklits a little bit better each day, backed by our incredible team and beautiful families. If we do that, we believe that over time, good things will continue to happen for our entire community – and (most importantly), the children who come to Choklits will leave not only in good stead to start school, but will start with a significant advantage and a foundation they can build on for years to come. Here’s to lighting the spark for lifelong learning!
From our family to yours, we hope 2023 is your best year ever,
Previous years letters-