Winner: Lezanne de Beer,
Sunrise View Primary School, North West
The unconditional love and acceptance that Lezanne de Beer’s grade two learners showed to her were enough proof that she made a good choice by becoming a teacher. To her there can never be another career she could have opted for other than teaching, particularly because of her natural admiration for children.
“I absolutely enjoy children; seeing their ecstatic smiles when they’ve achieved something through my help, is all I need in my life,” said De Beer. Over and above interacting with the little ones whom she so adores, she also feels that teaching gives her a sense of completeness, because through it she is able to build a better South Africa.
But De Beer hastened to add that teaching young children is not all sunshine and roses. She said there are those instances where one will be faced with difficult and often complex issues; several barriers to learning are prevalent at her school. But this has not deterred her as she has found a creative way of dealing with the challenge. She uses “Fiona” — a naughty but shy puppet — to help create a warm and conducive environment for the learners to feel safe to participate in class activities.
Another challenge that worries De Beer is the lack of parental involvement in their children’s lives. This creates a parental vacuum that forces her to take on the role of a mother, nurse or caregiver. The idea according to her is to ensure that her learners know that she is there for them, no matter what the situation.
De Beer’s advice to newly-qualified teachers is to consider teaching in rural communities even though the schools there might not conform to the concept of a “perfect” schooling environment.
Says De Beer: “You might find the most enjoyable and rewarding teaching experience in rural communities, as they really appreciate teachers who invest their time in enabling learners to face life’s trials with the confidence that belies their social standing.”
She reckons that even though the dividends of her commitment to the teaching profession might be paid long after she has left, just knowing that she has laid down a good foundation is enough to keep her going, despite the challenges she might come across.
1st runner-up: Martha Blessed Magagula,
Ifalethu School in Mpumalanga
Although Magagula is a trained professional nurse, she always had a soft spot for children. For instance, she used to rush home after her shift to be on time for the schoolchildren, to help them with their homework.
“I was more fulfilled with the tutoring I did than the nursing, and the love I have for education made the decision to switch careers very easy. I love being the one who gives learners the foundation upon which to build their future,” says Magagula.
Magagula says her learners’ energy and inquisitiveness serve as eternal source of inspiration to give her best every day. This is despite the many challenges she encounters in the course of her job. Some of the main challenges include lack of parental involvement in their children’s education and under-resourced schools. She believes that these can be resolved by involving various stakeholders to find lasting solutions.
“During our regular meetings with the community, I encourage them to adopt the culture of being involved in all aspects of their children’s education, as it’s not a one man show; we all have a role to play,” says Magagula.
She is a member of various school and community-based committees. Above all, Magagula is a big proponent of lifelong learning through formal developmental courses, research and communities-of-practice. She advises other teachers to engage with their peers from other schools on a regular basis to keep up to date with education-related matters.
“As teachers, finding continued inspiration is very important in our journey. The sky is not the limit; constantly pushing ourselves for the benefit of our learners should be the norm,” Magagula says.
2nd runner-up: Tamara Leigh Cameron, Nottingham Road Primary School, KwaZulu-Natal
Tamara Cameron identified teaching as the only available and effective tool with which she can meaningfully impact ordinary lives in South Africa. “For me teaching was a natural progression, as I’ve known from a very young age that influencing young children is my destiny,” she says.
Although her main task is to impart rudimentary skills to her learners, Cameron has in turn learned one or two important values from the learners themselves. These include, among others, being grateful, fair, honest and being able to appreciate the small things in life.
Dealing with and finding solution to the challenges that come with the learners’ biological, physical, emotional or mental growth fascinates her. She always strives to create a warm and welcoming learning atmosphere for the little ones in her classroom.
Readily giving warm hugs to the children, providing blankets on cold days, a fun and bright learning space, and being in constant contact with the parents via an instant messaging service, are just some of the many ways Cameron creates safe and loving classrooms.
Cameron is also a generous person who goes out of her way to assist other teachers to reach their full potential through mentorship. Her constant advice to them is to never give up on their quest to be the difference in learners’ lives. “We need to be the best educators that we can be to ensure that our learners get the best grounding that they deserve,” says Cameron.
Being part of a dynamic teaching staff complement that brings positive change in the children’s lives means a great deal to her, and the gratitude expressed by the learners is priceless: “I love making a difference in these little people’s lives; I love the way that they love me,” she says.