Most ACG Sunderland families would recognise the friendly face of Sonya Eldridge around campus.
She’s been with the school in one role or another since day one. In 2007, she started as volunteer parent help – photocopying, helping with the school production, giving her time however it was needed. That year, her son Thomas started in Year 5. The school only had 60 or 70 kids. Sonya remembers it as a friendly, welcoming place.
Although it was a leap of faith to come to such a small school in its first year, it was what Thomas needed. “We believed in the school’s vision and its values,” Sonya says. “It went well for him.”
That year, Sonya became a teacher aide. She also applied to be the school receptionist, but after being a mother for twelve years, she didn’t have the skills and didn’t get the job. She didn’t take it as a knock. Instead she went and did some office training and reapplied for the job, successfully, later. At the same time she took on the role of property manager.
Having a love of admin has helped in all her roles at the school. “I love the variety. People come up to me to solve their problems and I have to work out the best way around it. It’s satisfying and it keeps you young!”
Right now, she’s Acting PA to principal Mr Villars. She says the role has taught her that there’s a lot going on in people’s lives and that needs to be respected. “But there’s an open door policy here and any issues get sorted out straight away. Nathan’s a good boss. He’s actually a real softy. Many people don’t realise that.”
For Sonya, the highlight of the last ten years has been watching children come through the school, grow into adults and become good people in society. And her relationships with school families. She says they work hard to keep their children here, and she sees that their children appreciate it.
As for son Thomas, he’s 20 now. He’s employed and has just been offered a pay rise and a building apprenticeship. He’s found his way. “Our biggest goal for him was always to be a good person. As parents we’re very proud of him and we often tell him. We’ve given him a gift that no one will ever be able to take off him. If he falls down, I know his education will pick him up again.”