“My name is Kestra ***** and I attended Treetops from 1997-2006. I’m hoping you can pass this message on to Geraldine from Children’s House for me as I couldn’t find a direct email to reach her and I believe she still works at Treetops.
I don’t expect you to remember me as has been nearly 16 years since I last set foot in your classroom to venture into primary school life in Wattle, and I can only imagine how many children’s names you have had to learn since then. But I’d like to share some memories with you that I have from back then.
I remember so much about Children’s House. I was 3 years old and I remember my Mum (Natalie ***** – you may remember her as the veterinarian) leading me up the stairs holding my hand and introducing me to you, and I really had no idea what this was all about. I remember Sue teaching me to tie my shoelaces on a wooden board with a shoe painted on it. I remember standing in a circle every morning singing the Australian anthem. I remember going home and asking my parents why we sung “For we are young and free” when some of us were not “free” (I pronounced the number “three” as “free” back then) because in fact some of us were four. I remember forming a line to have our hair checked for nits by Christina.
I remember the red hat I used to wear every lunch time, and my best friend Emily. I remember the first time I ever wrote my name without any help and I remember feeling like you were genuinely proud of me. I remember one year when Santa came to deliver presents, and my Mum was in the room when Santa handed me a colouring book and I looked over at my friend Acacia to see that she was given a fluffy blue purse.
I remember crying to my Mum and complaining that Santa gave me the worst present ever. I only recently found out that parents were responsible for the gifts that Santa handed out (oops – sorry Mum!). I remember when my brother (Shay – he is graduating high school in a month!) started attending Children’s House and you would always let me visit him. I remember when the tee-pee was first put up, and we used it as a house for playing “Mums and Dads”. I remember dropping fruit in the bowl every morning, except when Mum would forget to pack some. I remember stealing marbles from the jar of marbles in the classroom, and feeling so guilty that I returned the ones that I hadn’t lost the next day. I remember sitting in a circle and you were quizzing us with pictures of birds, asking us if we knew what type they were. I remember knowing that it was a kookaburra but being too shy to speak up. Nobody else could guess it so eventually I softly said what it was and you asked us who said that. I raised my hand and everyone looked at me. You commended me and made me feel so proud for getting it right. I always think about that whenever I see a kookaburra. I remember being stopped at the door every time I went to go outside and being asked “are you wearing sunscreen?”. I remember you would call our names one by one at the end of the day before we got to leave.
thanking Geraldine, almost ten years after graduating…
Have you ever wished that you could run away with the circus? Well, judging by the response of the Wattle, Karri and Jarrah students to Zelie Bullen when she visited Treetops on Thursday 24th October, many of them would now love to! Zelie is a former student of Beenong School which pre-dates Treetops on this site, and Karri class invited her here to tell us about the school as it was in her era (1976-1982). Of course, the fact that Zelie is also a stunt rider, a world renowned animal trainer who has trained animals for Charlotte’s Web, Racing Stripes and War Horse and is now part of the Circus Joseph Ashton, made her visit even more exciting. Zelie brought with her fellow performer Julia, the circus school teacher Maggie, her own son Colt and four other students – Rikki, Dante, Alex and Katrina aged from 7 to 17: all performers and all being schooled at the circus. Zelie told us how much she loved her days at Beenong School. She talked about riding her pony to school and tethering him all day to eat grass. She described her teachers who she considered were beautiful people that taught her to be who she wanted to be and to do what she wanted to do. There were some great moments as we took Zelie around her now very different looking school, for example when we walked up the steps behind the new office building that stands on the site of the original classrooms and she realized that the steps we were treading on were the original steps that she remembers helping to make! She described how the Scarlet Gums building was originally an open play area, built by the parents, with a roof but no walls and a giant swing.
We heard about the school ‘Parliament’ held once a week, where students talked about things that needed doing, bullying issues or about something exciting that they may have done. She also explained how they had ‘Ministers’ for ‘everything’ – and how while Zelie was the Minister for Animals, (she said that she was born loving animals), a dog was hit by a car outside the school and therefore she was the one who needed to find an adult to take it to the vet. She still remembers the warm sense of importance and responsibility when her peers turned to her to do something about this. During the visit our students had lots of opportunity to ask Zelie and the five children some well thought out questions. We learnt about circus life, about their acts and tricks, and about what animals Zelie has trained over the years – giraffes have been the most difficult ! Dalziel asked “What does it feel like to be part of a movie that goes world–wide?” “It’s a beautiful feeling,” replied Zelie. “It is good to be able to sit and think about things that you are glad that you have done and that you are proud of.” This visit was not just about learning about our past. It was about community connections, and about following your dreams and believing in yourself. Zelie commented that she immediately felt ‘at home’ when she stepped inside the school after so many years. She said that although it had obviously physically grown immensely that it still had the same warmth, the same sense of respect for the individual and of wanting to nurture and develop the potential of each and every student. The warm response to Zelie from students of all ages was testament to how inspirational and approachable this amazing lady is. Karri and the transitioning Wattle students are planning to visit their new friends at their current Duncraig location on the way up to their Ern Halliday camp and we invited the five children to be part of our school whenever they feel like a day or so in a “real” school!! You can read more about Zelie here.