Parent associations may be struggling to find the number of volunteers they need, but in virtually every school you’ll find at least one absolute champion. You know – the volunteer who is always there with willing hands, who seems to live and breathe the place.
Bev Crittall is one of those champions. Last term, her contribution was recognised with a 'Friend of Public Education Award'. The award was presented by the Australian Education Union (AEU) as part of Public Education Week.
Bev is a full-time volunteer at the Garran Primary School canteen, working the same hours as the canteen manager. She is also available to help with guided reading and math sessions.
She was somewhat embarrassed to receive the award. “I do what I do because I get more from it than I put in. I’m happy to just do it in the background.”
Like many school canteens, Garran’s is at the centre of the school community. And like many canteen staff and volunteers, Bev plays a nurturing role in the school community – helping make sure that people feel they belong. She knows the names of all the students and greets every child, parent and staff member with a smile. Students and staff love the canteen, not just for the food, but for the individual attention, banter and jokes.
The Garran canteen – named by the students "Garralicious" – has been transformed over the last two years, driven by the paid manager and Bev as fulltime volunteer. Parents, students and staff are happy to order several times a week, knowing the food is homemade and healthy. There is a colourful and diverse menu and everyone is encouraged to sample a range of fruit and vegetables. The canteen was recently awarded a Healthy Food at School Canteen Menu Award from Nutrition Australia.
When staff order from the canteen, it's Bev who dresses their plates and writes them special notes and acknowledges their birthdays. Bev goes out of her way to acknowledge all staff during special events in their lives, be it the death of a family member or the birth of a child.
She decorates the canteen to reflect the many festivals that the school’s diverse community celebrate. She also reinforces the school's ‘Bounce Back’ student wellbeing and resilience program with posters and sayings. This supports the work of the teachers in the classroom.
Bev, through the canteen, sets the tone for the community feel and connectedness at Garran Primary. It is people like Bev, passionate supporters of public schools, that give our system richness and strength. She is certainly a worthy winner of this award.
“The principal comes in and says how much they appreciate what we do,” Bev told us. “That is more valuable than a public award. People in our community recognise me and value what we do. I get to know the teachers and the kids and watch them grow. Parents come and have a chat and a cuppa. That’s all the thanks I need.”
This article appeared in ParentACTion Magazine, Term 3, 2018.