Report: Lillian Leptos

As I arrive at Reservoir West Primary and the end of lunch break, no bells ring. Instead, there is a rousing chorus of Dancing Queen. A former student of Reservoir Primary, WRSC student Cooper was proud to return to his old school as a classroom volunteer. 

He remembers his time there clearly and the fact that he sometimes needed help. Several years later, Cooper has returned as an aide to other students needing help.

His supervisor Annemarie Honeybone, often places Cooper with the Year 4 boys. 

“Of course, the boys get help from adult aides at the school, but they are tickled pink when a big boy from high school is there to help them,” she says. “They get a second wind when he arrives because they really enjoy working with him”. 

Cooper’s secrets are his patience and the fact that he speaks their language. He has an instinct about how to respond to them. There is an upside to moving from student to instructor, but as Cooper found out, sometimes the little ones are less than cooperative. 

“Some of them are hyperactive,” he says. “I try to get them to cooperate by joking around with them; trying to boss them just doesn’t work.” 

Working with the big kids is easier and today, Cooper is taking two students for reading. After the session is over, he switches over as a classroom assistant. 

There is an additional excitement in returning to his old school.

“It’s cool being able to go into the staffroom and there have been so many changes,” he says. “There was a section that was just a barren wasteland. Today it’s full of sporting equipment and a soccer field. In the future, if I have children, this is the school I would send them to.”

Asked if he could think of a way to improve his experience, Cooper is honest. 

“If I got paid, it would be even better but I’m loving volunteering,” he says.

Cooper has his eyes set on a career as a chef. 

“I’m doing Food Tech as a VCE subject and my dream is to get my qualification and work in restaurants around the world,” he explains. “I want to also complete a business course at RMIT and that would set me up to run a restaurant. I love cooking and it gives me joy to see people enjoying the food I cook.”