Meet our Team

Paula O’Bryan

Why Paula O’Bryan thinks now’s the time to kickstart your career in early learning.

Paula O’Bryan has dedicated her career to caring for others. From aged care to childcare, Paula has always been passionate about providing the best possible experiences for the most vulnerable. Now, as an Educator at Robinvale Preschool, she’s back to her hometown roots, making a lasting impact on the children and families in her community. With supportive leadership and plenty of opportunities to grasp, here’s why Paula is proud to build her career with the Y.

Coming full circle

In her career, Paula has experienced both ends of the spectrum. From the wise musings of the elderly to the joyful chaos of the young, she first gained valuable skills working in aged care before embarking on her early learning pathway. When Paula decided to take on a Certificate III in Education Support, she transitioned to a role at her local childcare centre – and her love for working with children grew.

“It’s my world at the moment,” Paula says. “Seeing the light switches come on and the children making those connections is such a special thing. It’s fantastic to see the parents go, ‘I didn’t know my child could do that.’ I love sharing that with the children and the families.”

For Paula, those connections are close to her heart. Growing up, her family owned a pub in the small town of Euston, just a stone’s throw away from Robinvale. Paula then spent her younger years living in America and riding horses in Ireland, but jumped at the chance to return to her hometown roots. In 2019, she came across an ad for an Educator at the Y’s Robinvale Preschool – and she hasn’t looked back since!

“It has been fantastic coming back home. It really gives me an opportunity to give back to the community that I’m closely connected with. I’m now educating my friends’ grandchildren! There’s no better feeling.”
Growing for the future

When Paula’s not creating positive experiences for the children at Robinvale Preschool, you’ll likely find her doing one of two things. One, she’s enjoying everything a small town has to offer – from motorbike riding with her two children to training rising stars at her local footy club. Or two, she’s working hard to complete her accelerated Bachelor of Early Childhood Education. Paula was introduced to the Deakin University program by Ben Leersen, our Area Director for the region, and she says it was the perfect opportunity. Not only does it allow Paula to enhance her skills, but it also builds on all the wonderful work she and her team do for the children in their care.

“I’ve learned so much during the past 18 months,” Paula says. “There’s a huge focus here on helping us expand our knowledge base. I’ve also had a team that I can come back to and say, ‘Hey, this is what I’m working on at uni. Can we look at implementing this?’ And we’ve changed a lot because of it. That’s all because of the education I’ve had through the Y. It’s been phenomenal.”

Paula says the support she’s received during her studies has made a world of difference. Working in a small town, she was pleasantly surprised by the Y’s efforts to keep her team connected to their leadership.

“I’ve worked for a lot of big companies in the past and seen the ‘you’re replaceable’ attitude. I haven’t come across that at the Y. For example, our management is so supportive of us and is willing to listen to what we need as a service. Ben has gone above and beyond to help us out, and we really appreciate it.”
The next step

As an Educator, Paula plays a critical role in ensuring parents and caregivers can balance their work and family responsibilities. And she makes a lasting impact during some of the most formative years of a child’s life. That purpose is what keeps Paula coming back every day.

“Early years are where you lay the foundation for future learning,” Paula says. “Studies have proven that if those foundations are in place before a child starts school, their school career will be far better off. I think a lot of people underestimate how important it is.”

If you think early learning sounds like the career for you, Paula says now’s the time. There is so much exciting change on the horizon, and we always need dedicated, driven people like Paula to help us make it happen!

“The industry is moving forward. It’s evolving at an absolutely rapid pace, and therefore it’s an exciting time to jump in – because it’s about to boom. There’s never been a better time to influence how we educate and the way people look at early education. I say go for it!”

Meet Our Team: Ben

Ben Leersen may have taken a slightly unconventional approach to choosing a career, but it proved to be one of the best decisions he’s made.
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Meet Our Team: Alex

Alex always knew she’d work with children. But she didn’t realise how fulfilling her career would be until she found the Y.
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