Viv Heitmann, last of Murray Bridge Community Children’s Centre’s originals, retires
After more than 30 years, a beloved early childhood educator has called time on her career.
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The last of Murray Bridge Community Children’s Centre’s original staff has retired at last.
Viv Heitmann had worked at the Mannum Road centre since soon after it opened in 1987.
At that time, the child care centre was the only one in Murray Bridge, and consisted of little more than four cots in a room.
She was closely involved with its growth over the years, its relocation to the old Mobilong council offices and back, and countless excursions that staff would never get away with these days.
“When it rained we used to put garbage bags on the kids and go out,” she remembered with a chuckle.
“We used to go out in our cars, we went to Old Tailem Town, we took the train to Tailem Bend, we used to ride around town on the town bus.
“We went to the sale yards to see the animals, went through the car wash; we had all the experiences that kids might otherwise miss out on.”
Over the years she became particularly known for her love of music, playing nursery rhymes and children’s songs on the piano or piano accordion.
After more than 30 years, she called time on her career earlier this year.
On Sunday, she was given a surprise retirement party at the Wanderers Cricket Club.
The centre’s inaugural director, Robyn McLean, said Ms Heitmann had always wanted to give its children the best care possible.
She was warned once that staff could never take the place of children’s parents – for example, giving them baths if they hadn’t had one at home.
Ms Heitmann’s response: make sure every child got dirty enough that their parents would need to give them a bath, encouraging that parental connection.
Talia Scriven, who organised the surprise party, was born the same year the centre opened, and went on to work there with Ms Heitmann for six years.
“You’re the reason I wanted to be not only a better educator, but a better mum,” she said.
“You would just appear like Mary Poppins … you would always encourage me and give me a pep-up.”
The woman of the hour guessed that she could probably write a book about about the hundreds of children who had come under her care.
“It has been a huge part of my life,” she said.
“I’ve enjoyed every second of it.
“I’ve got such awesome memories of all the little ones I’ve looked after.”