Mentone Grammar

Belinda Mckindlay

Librarian Teacher (Eblana)

Grad Dip Ed (Teacher Librarianship) 

Belinda McKindlay has combined her love of nature and literature by using library lessons as an opportunity to teach students in Eblana about the best ways to care for our natural environment. She has approached this from both a local level, including within the Mentone Grammar Community, and encouraging actions and initiatives that may make an influence on a global scale.

Belinda McKindlay grew up in the small town of Corryong, nestled at the base of the Snowy Mountains in Victoria’s North East. Growing up in a small town meant that community was very important, “Corryong High School only had around 50 students in Year 12, so we had wonderful relationships with our teachers. I would sometimes babysit some of the teacher’s children,” she remembers. “After school, we were allowed to go down to the milk bar and play Pac-Man and Space Invaders. We spent hours laughing and hanging out before we went home for dinner.”

Belinda soon realised that her career opportunities were limited in Corryong. “Girls weren’t really encouraged to pursue careers like they are today, especially girls from rural communities,” she shares. After careful consideration, Belinda realised she would have to move to the city in order to pursue a career. “When I finished high school, I wanted to start a new chapter of my life. So, I packed my bags for Melbourne to discover what career opportunities were out there.”

Upon arriving in the city, Belinda decided to take a gap year to consider what her next steps career wise would be. She worked in the head office of the home furnishings and clothing company Laura Ashley.  Over time, Belinda realised that her love for home was never truly forgotten. “I enrolled into a Graduate Diploma of Education (Primary Teaching). My dream was to eventually return to a rural community and work at a school there.”

After completing her studies, Belinda applied for teaching positions in Melbourne to no avail. Not yet ready to leave the city, she worked in other fields including as a bookkeeper for a limousine company and as a Production Assistant for Channel 7 News. “I left Channel 7 to marry a farmer and to go and live in Moulamein in the Riverina region of New South Wales,” she said. This was the move that began Belinda’s career as a teacher. “A position became available for a Teacher Librarian at a small Central school in Tooleybuc, with only around 180 students from Foundation to Year 12. I travelled 65kms each way to get to this school, but the opportunity enabled me to further my education and do my Teacher Librarian course.”

Despite a long and rewarding career, Belinda’s greatest life achievement is undoubtedly being a Mum to her three daughters. “We lived on a remote property before the time of mobile phones and the internet. The girls became close friends – there was no one next door to play with and this friendship is still strong today. I am proud of the way my girls have grown into resilient, hardworking, caring young women,” she shares.

In 2017, when her three children had graduated from school, Belinda decided to move to Melbourne. “Luckily for me, a job was advertised for Mentone Grammar’s Finlay Anderson Junior Library. After seeing the school and meeting some of the staff, I knew the job was for me.”

“I love everything about Mentone Grammar! I work in Eblana, the Foundation to Year 4 Campus, with wonderful, supportive staff and outstanding students.”

Since commencing at the School, Belinda has integrated her love for nature into the school program by establishing the Eblana Growing Greener Initiative. “We use Library lessons to teach students about sustainability and the environment. From a very young age students are fascinated by the events of the world and want to be involved in preserving and protecting our natural environment. Many students come from homes where sustainable actions like composting, recycling and using less plastic are already taking place, so we want to celebrate these actions by providing students with great literature and resources,” she said.

“The library classes follow the ‘Australian Calendar of Environmental Events’, which covers a wide range of topics such as our oceans, native plants, wildlife, insects and key environmental awareness days. I like to invite students to explore the real world through fantasy and imagination. Then slowly, as our students grasp the messaging behind a story, we integrate non-fictions books and facts. A favourite book of mine for the students in Foundation follows the story of an unhappy octopus who is stuck in a small tank. This charming picture book has led to greater discussions about leaving animals in the wild and preserving nature.”

Belinda also encourages our students to get their hands dirty in Eblana’s Magic Garden – this includes weeding, mulching, feeding the soil with homegrown ‘worm tea’ and harvesting seasonal crops. “I work closely with the Year 4 students in the ‘Green Team’ to discuss ideas on the best ways to make a difference, both on a local level and on a global scale. Recently, the Green Team has been developing the ‘Waste Free Wednesday’ program, where classes receive points for a lunch box with minimal packaging. It is our aim to reduce the amount of waste in Eblana by educating students to pack their food in reusable containers. The Green Team also hopes to educate all Eblana students on the art of reusing paper before discarding and to use less paper where possible,” she explains.

“I have been lucky enough to be able to set up the Eblana Green initiative with amazing support from staff, students and parents. The students are enthusiastic and passionate about the environment and their parents show great support by implementing lessons at school in to their own household. Additionally, our VCE VM students have been incredibly helpful in the Magic Garden under the guidance of the Maintenance and Garden department – I am so thankful for their support.”

After years of experience, Belinda feels that if she could offer her past self some words of wisdom it would be: “Embrace every opportunity!”

Written by Steph Kinnear