Bright cherry red blazers, the basketball courts and footy fields, firm friendships and waking early on chilly Saturday mornings to play team sports – these are some of Cameron Agars’ earliest memories of Yarra.
“This place was a different world from primary school but I loved it. I came here with one friend but there were lots of opportunities to meet new people,” he says.
Many of those opportunities were on the sports field. Cameron played basketball and did athletics and competed at district level.
“I loved being part of team sports. You each bring skills and complement each other.”
Cameron wasn’t a fan of English Literature, but he enjoyed debating and public speaking – valuable skills as Principal of Mentone Park Primary School.
“After Year 12 I didn’t think I’d be a school principal, but I’m so glad that I am where I am. In my later years at Yarra and at uni I did sciences and was looking at physiotherapy, but I changed direction.”
Some significant challenges faced by his family influenced Cameron’s pathway. After his younger brother was involved in a car accident, Cameron began volunteering to help people with disabilities and acquired brain injuries.
About 18 months later, his father died suddenly of a heart attack.
“I knew I couldn’t bring my Dad back but I could help other people. You have to work with the cards you are dealt. You can cry, but then you have to look at what you can change that doesn’t involve blaming someone else for what has happened or asking ‘why me’,” he says.
Cameron became an integration aide and realised the classroom was where he gained the greatest sense of reward. He returned to study and became a primary school teacher.
“As an integration aide, I worked with an autistic boy in Prep and I realised that, through teaching, you could help people and make a broader difference. Now I’m at a school with 250 kids and 200 families and the parents are very involved with the school. My door is always open and when we see a need or an issue, we deal with it.
“2020 was a year like no other and emphasised that student wellbeing must always be the priority. In 2021 we want to embed more flexible learning for the students and that’s an exciting development to be part of.”
Cameron’s memories of Yarra are positive ones and he encourages current students to take heed of the school motto.
“Have an open mind, listen to what is happening around you and then create your own journey,” he says.