Aubrey Ellen worked as North Street School caretaker for 25 years before his health forced him into retirement in 2007. Coincidentally, the same year he accepted his grandchildren's invitation to attend a grandparents' day at Makino Kindergarten. The teachers recognised Aubrey's instant rapport with the children and approached him to join their team as teacher aide.
Subsequent changes resulted in his fulltime role being disestablished last year, but with thanks to a successful Equity Funding application Aubrey is back at the kindergarten every Tuesday morning.
"It is just such a rewarding way to spend my time," says Aubrey. "Helping the children to learn and their ability to make me laugh keeps me young." The Makino Kindergarten teachers call him a magnet. Children who are a little shy are soon at the door joining a group of children eagerly awaiting Aubrey's presence.
Aubrey breaks down generation barriers; he gets down to the children's level and engages in a way that they readily identify with. Perhaps even more important is the breaking down of stereotypes. Males are a rarity in early childhood education - yet they are important role models.
You will find Aubrey happily helping in the process cooking area and reading stories, just as much as you'll find him in the outdoor environment assisting with sandpit and carpentry constructions.
His teacher aide role also allows for essential release time, where the children who require more one on one time have direct access to the 100% qualified kindergarten teachers. Makino Kindergarten feels privileged to have Aubrey on their team.