Excellence in Teaching Physical Science (FET)

Winner: Mfanafuthi Joseph Nkosi,
Panorama Combined School, KwaZulu-Natal

Mfanafuthi Nkosi is a trained geologist, but before he could get any firm job offers he discovered that teaching is where his heart lies. “I stumbled into teaching while waiting for feedback from a few jobs I’d applied to, but truth be told, teaching is the best field for me. There’s nothing as fulfilling as helping learners attain the academic goals that they’d never even thought of attempting,” says Nkosi.

But he concedes teaching is not without challenges. He cites, among others, learners’ ill-discipline, lack of parental involvement and insufficient science apparatus as some of the main challenges he has had to grapple with. To overcome some of these, Nkosi has come up with certain measures; for instance, he uses school community meetings. He also makes sure he provides leadership and mentorship, particularly to the ill-disciplined learners.

When it comes to insufficient science resources, he believes forging closer working relationships with companies that operate within the school’s radius proves to be the best strategy to get assistance.

To stimulate learners’ interest and generate excitement during his class, Nkosi uses audiovisual media. He makes sure he records his lessons and classroom interactions with the learners, for future reference. Not only does this improve participation, but it also help sustain the learners’ interest throughout the duration of the lesson.

“Podcasts have become a popular form of revision with my learners; I record all my lessons and then share the audio files for them to save on their phones for later use,” says Nkosi.

He believes in the importance of seeking support, and encourages his learners and colleagues to regularly consult with their assigned subject advisors.

“With a positive attitude and the appropriate support structures in place, there is nothing you can’t achieve, as long as you put your heart into it,” Nkosi concludes.

2nd Runner-up: Delight Mthethwa,
Bombani School Secondary, Mpumalanga

If there is one thing Delight Mthethwa does not like is to see people in his community suffer or struggle because of their socioeconomic circumstances. His desire is to help eradicate poverty and improve other people’s life circumstances, and he believes the only profession that can enable him to achieve this is teaching.

Says Mthethwa: “I love seeing people conquering their odds, particularly poverty. And to witness their progress in life through education is not only humbling but rewarding as well.”

Mthethwa is a great advocate of improvisation ,especially because his school is resource constrained. He has not allowed the absence of a science laboratory or other related equipment to negatively impact his learners in any way. “It’s important to use a variety of teaching strategies so that every type of learner is accommodated. In my class we do not place emphasis on any one learning technique; I ensure that each lesson contains both theoretical and practical components and, where applicable, I use simulation,” says Mthethwa.

For instance, to demonstrate chemical reactions, Mthethwa would use, among others, his car battery as a source of energy, pencils and soda bottles as containers. Not only does he ensure his learners receive the practical component of the physical sciences curriculum, but he also teaches them the value of creativity when solving problems.

According to him knowledge sharing is vital in advancing the quality of teaching. He believes teachers should co-operate and motivate each other to reach their common goal of building South Africa. “As teachers we should work together in preparing future generations for our nation,” adds Mthethwa

2nd Runner-up: Matsentshe William Mathipa, Florapark Comprehensive High School, Limpopo

Matsentshe Mathipa already knew while he was in grade one that he would someday become a teacher. He was ahead of his peers, most of whom waited until their final class to decide on what career they follow. After completing his matric he went straight to register for teaching and, as luck would have it, he landed a department of basic education’s administered Funza Lushaka Bursary Scheme.

Mathipa says he appreciates the fact that he was able to reach his goal of becoming a teacher, because today he is able to contribute to people’s lives. “I love interacting with people, and I am especially proud that I am able to assist them through giving them my time and support,” says Mathipa.

His philosophy is that no challenge is insurmountable and believes in speaking out whenever one encounters it. “So far it has been smooth sailing. Whenever I’ve had challenges, whether with learners or fellow educators, they’ve been due to either a misunderstanding or miscommunication, and addressing them head-on has prevented them from festering,” Mathipa says.

He adopts the same attitude when dealing with the challenge of lack of science apparatus for his learners to conduct experiments. “Because I don’t want my learners to be disadvantaged in terms of practical experiments, I make use of computer simulations, which I download from the internet, and then project them on to the interactive board for the class to engage with,” says Mathipa

He believes energy, enthusiasm and dedication to excellence one displays often cultivates confidence in his learners. His advice to fellow teachers is that they should ensure that their love for the subjects they teach should come first.

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Thabo Mohlala
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