Former teacher from Mosman behind award-winning program to tackle schoolyard bullying
Volunteer Sophie Rothery applauded for her role in developing Just Like You! program
The passion and dedication of a former teacher from Mosman is being celebrated in the lead up to National Volunteer Week (12-18 May).
Sophie Rothery has spent the last 8 years developing the primary school disability awareness program Just Like You! and last year received a Highly Commended in the Sydney North Individual Volunteer of the Year Awards for her dedication to the program.
Just Like You! is now run in 150 primary schools around the state, including numerous on the lower North Shore such as Mosman Prep, Mosman Public, Sacred Heart, Blessed Sacrament, Beauty Point Public and Queenwood School for Girls.
Sophie says she didn’t hesitate when the opportunity came up to help get Just Like You! off the ground and into classrooms.
‘I was looking to find a meaningful way to volunteer and give something back to the community when the then Spastic Centre told me about a school-based disability awareness program they wanted to develop’, Sophie recalls. ‘As a former teacher, I knew how important such a program was and so I applied to come on board as the voluntary program coordinator.
‘What started as a pilot program is now aligned with the NSW curriculum and is run in schools throughout metropolitan Sydney and in regional areas like Orange in the state’s central west.’
Just Like You! involves two volunteer presenters – one with and one without a disability – working with Year 5 students to break down barriers and challenge stereotypes about people with a disability. The program took out the 2012 Sydney North Volunteer Team of the Year award.
Sophie, who as well as developing the program is also a volunteer presenter, says there is nothing more rewarding than what she calls the ‘Eureka moments’ in classrooms.
‘They are the moments when, during a Just Like You! session, a student feels comfortable and confident enough to put up their hand and open up about issues affecting them, a sibling or a close friend, and together with the class they talk about ways to address those issues,’ Sophie said.
‘These moments are, quite simply, life changing for not only that particular child, but their classmates too.’
Released on 1 May 2014