20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards


Excellence in Grade R Teaching


Michelle Swart
Hermanus Pre-Primary School, Western Cape 

Michelle Swart has been teaching for 15 years, and for the past four she has been a grade R teacher at Hermanus Pre-Primary School. She is a qualified Early Childhood Development (ECD) practitioner and has a BA (HSS) psychology counselling degree as well as a postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE) Foundation Phase, which she completed in 2018. 

She is an enthusiastic and passionate teacher who is innovative and creative in her teaching methodologies — she makes learning fun! Swart fulfils her teaching and leadership role with loyalty, dedication and support to other teachers at school and throughout the entire circuit. She constantly upgrades her skills and has attended several training courses, including The Happy Handwriting and Early Identification to Learning Barriers courses, the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) training courses and the Western Cape Education Department’s Emergent Literacy Project.

She promotes diversity and inclusivity in her teaching by supporting all learners from different backgrounds, abilities, cultures and religions. She is solution-driven, diligently puts interventions in place for all learners with barriers in her class and encourages parental involvement in the intervention process. Swart believes in learning through fun and play. She meticulously plans and arranges her classroom space for optimal and sensory stimulation. This creates great learning opportunities for language development, mathematical thinking and social skills development, such as taking turns and problem solving. 

Swart has an exceptionally print-rich and well-structured classroom, thereby creating a conducive learning environment for her learners. She instils a sense of worth in her grade R class to ensure that each learner’s reception year is an introduction to an exciting educational journey. Swart believes in genuine, honest and consistent positive reinforcement. She has the ability to work under pressure and still produce work of an exceptional standard. Not only is she an example of excellence in all areas as a teacher, but she is also as leader in the school and in her community. With her strong leadership, excellent organisational and human relations skills, she is a worthy nominee for the National Teaching Awards (NTAs).

Second winner

Asja-Leah Katia Strydom
Despatch Preparatory School, Eastern Cape 

Such is her passion and dedication to the teaching profession that Asja-Leah Katia Strydom decided to learn isiXhosa, the language spoken by most of the learners at her school. Her inability to speak the isiXhosa language was creating a gulf between her and the majority of her learners, which she chose to bridge.  

Katia Strydom says it was self-motivation and the influence of her former teachers that inspired her to pursue teaching as a career. She says what she enjoys the most is to be the first person to identify and discover talent in a child and then nurture it to its full potential. 

She says her strength lies in her boundless energy and passion, almost to a point of obsession, for the teaching profession, which she would not swap for any other career.  She says her nomination and her subsequent participation at the national level of the Awards serves as a strong motivation for her and her peers, particularly those teaching in the rural communities. 

Third winner 

Mamaki Grieta Mokone 

Perdeberd Primary Farm School, Free State 

While teaching at under-resourced and farm schools is a serious challenge to most teachers, Mamaki Mokone believes such situations can serve as a learning curve. She says her love for teaching developed from when she used to teach at a Sunday school. She says she likes it when she sees her learners’ enthusiastic participation when she introduces a new activity during a lesson. 

Teaching at a farm school has exposed Mokone to a myriad of enormous challenges that only served to strengthen her resolve to make a difference. Among others, these include a lack of running water, no flushing toilets, unreliable learner transport and a range of socioeconomic challenges such as foetal alcohol syndrome, child-headed families, and health facilities that are far from the school. 

Mokone welcomed the opportunity to take part in the NTAs which, she says, not only has helped her to grow professionally but also made her see the world differently. She is so inspired that she intends to be an ambassador of goodwill for the less fortunate. 

Excellence in Primary School Teaching

First winner 

Mikhongelo Florence Precilla Bekwa 

Magangeni Primary School, Limpopo 

For Mikhongelo Bekwa, winning the NTA was a result of hard work, commitment and the imagination required to make children interested and excited about what they learn. Bekwa has learned that teaching and learning do not end in the classroom, and this has made her not only a well-rounded person, but also a resourceful and caring teacher. 

Bekwa is an accomplished teacher with two degrees under her belt; she is now pursuing a master’s in education. Bekwa says she chose to become a teacher because she wanted to make a difference in the lives of learners and contribute in shaping their futures. She feels she was born a teacher, because at the age of 19 she won a phonics programme at the THRASS Institute.

She says what inspires her is to assist learners work through their problems and weaknesses. Bekwa says she has noticed that learners struggle with reading and writing in English when they reach the Intermediate Phase. To remedy this, she founded a spelling club for grades three to seven, to help learners improve their English vocabulary. Through the club she teaches them correct spelling, with regular reading and writing sessions that include how to use a dictionary. 

Bekwa’s personal wish is to make a meaningful change to the lives of the people in her province, the country and the world through education.

Second place winner 

Vanilla Naick 

Umzintovale Primary School, KwaZulu-Natal

Vanilla Naick has been a teacher for 33 years, though it was not her first career choice. She says she finds it fulfilling to stand in front of her learners to share her wisdom, and guide and prepare them to take on the world on their own.

Naick says she always strives to positively impact her children’s lives through education, adding that, at any given time, a future president, innovator, inventor, national sportsman, humanitarian or hero could be sitting in her class. 

She says a validation from one of her lecturers at the university during her first year removed any idea of self-doubt in her ability as a teacher. Her lecturer expressed admiration after she made a presentation, and strongly recommended that Naick should pursue teaching, as she had all the qualities to be an excellent one. She says the positive comment affirmed her and deepened her love for teaching, and she has never looked back.

One of her first major challenges was when she was first assigned to teach English, though she wasn’t qualified to teach it. But she overcame this through self-study and by interacting with various experienced colleagues, who shared some of their best practices and innovative teaching strategies and resources. This gave her a tremendous boost, and soon she started to produce outstanding results. 

Naick hails the NTAs, saying she treasured every moment of the experience. She thinks she came out tops because of her self-confidence, eloquence and the excellent delivery of her presentation.  

Third Place Winner 

Mokgotsi Solomon, Free State

Mokgotsi Solomon, says teaching is a calling that requires absolute commitment and passion. He says he chose teaching as a career because he believes that it is one of the effective ways he can make tangible changes in people’s lives.

Solomon also ensures that he does not put a foot wrong, because he believes in being a good role model to his learners at all times. He says he got it right all these years in teaching because of his strict adherence to key values such as moral uprightness, dedication, service and sacrifice. He says he draws his inspiration from the late Professor Robert Sobukwe, who said: “Education means service to Africa.”

He says he feels particularly motivated when his learners’ performance improves, and he measures his success by the number of lives he has positively impacted. This is particularly in his community, which is ravaged by a number of social ills such as high youth unemployment, teenage pregnancy, poverty and violence. 

Solomon says these challenges have spilled into the school environment and have resulted in high incidences of learner pregnancies, drugs and alcohol abuse and high learner drop-out rates.

He says the community is overwhelmed and has lost hope. He feels it is his responsibility to motivate the learners and the parents that education is the only avenue they can use to change or overcome their conditions. He has even launched a campaign called #dropoutmustfall to create wider youth participation and to highlight the significance of education.

He says he will use his participation in the NTA to motivate the youth in his area. He advises them that they can all succeed, regardless of their challenging backgrounds. 

Excellence in Secondary School Teaching

First place winner 

Genevieve Claassen

Fields College, North West

Genevieve Claassen never doubted that teaching is her calling. She is a hard worker and dedicated teacher who is always looking for new and out-of-the box teaching methods and strategies.

To stimulate her learners’ interest and sustain their attention span, Claassen uses dance, video and technology. What has also proved successful and popular are a range of brain stimulation activities and motivations that she deploys in her classroom. Claassen is acutely aware that her fundamental responsibility as a teacher is to help develop and mould her learners to become responsible future leaders who can survive in and change the world. 

She also believes that to make learning more interesting and to resonate with the learners, teachers should use real-life activities or references. Claassen also encourages her learners to read widely and to independently research areas related to their subjects and interests. 

Claassen laments the high levels of teenage pregnancy and substance abuse. She is also concerned that English is not spoken in the homes of many learners and this constitutes a serious learning barrier to most of them.  

To deal with some of these problems Claassen has adopted an open-door policy approach and this encourages the learners and parents to constantly communicate with her. This includes having one-on-one discussions with individual learners to address their personal challenges. Where necessary, she involves counsellors to provide expert advice. Her long-term dream is to open and run her own school specialising in mentoring educators. She says she will always strive to make a difference in the community and the world around her.

Second Place winner 

Salome Kelly Mofokeng

Lebohang Secondary School, Gauteng 

Salome Mofokeng became a teacher by sheer chance. It was her former accounting teacher who noticed she displayed some of the key qualities required of a teacher, such as being patient, passionate and having a humane and caring attitude. 

She says her former teacher also realised that she always loved using the chalkboard to write answers when she assisted her friends with the subjects they struggled with. She says her teacher just knew that she would make a great teacher. 

And that is when the seed was planted and Mofokeng took up teaching as her professional career. She is a beneficiary of the department of basic education’s flagship postgraduate bursary called Funza Lushaka (Venda for teaching the nation). 

Mofokeng was clear from the onset that she wanted to use education to great effect given that majority of learners from the Boipatong community have no role models to look up to. She wants to motivate her learners to grasp the opportunity of learning with both hands and use education as stepladder out of their hopeless and uninspiring backgrounds. 

She says it is her personal mission and mandate to instil confidence and a winning mentality in her learners so that they can secure their futures. She not only offers them academic support; she also assists learners in other areas such as how to apply to various tertiary institutions. 

It did not come as a surprise to her when she was nominated to take part in the NTAs. She attributes her success to her hard work and ability to network with various stakeholders. Mofokeng says she will use the experience she got from participating in the Awards to inspire her learners and the community. 

She also believes in continuous professional development and she is currently studying towards her PhD in education management. He advice to her fellow teachers is to understand that learners look to them for guidance and academic support, and that they must reach out to them even beyond school.  

Third Place winner 

Leo Jonathan Raynor 

Collegiate Girls High School, Eastern Cape 

Leo Raynor’s decision to take up teaching was directly influenced by his former teachers, whom he praises for being impressive and excellent. When he took up teaching, his objective was clear: he wanted to mould the minds of the youth and to affirm in them that they are important members of society who can make a difference. 

Raynor believes that youths’ voice should be heard and not be ignored. Being a teacher allows him to motivate learners, help them build confidence and develop self-esteem. He also wants them to use their voices in a productive and constructive way. Raynor believes teachers should not just share information and knowledge with the learners, but should also provide mentorship, guidance and life skills. 

Raynor enjoys classroom conversations, which often revolve around current topical issues, particularly those of historical significance. He also likes listening to the general concerns of young people, who always have lots of thought-provoking questions. This means that each day is different and has its own challenges. Raynor also uses the extramural activities and tours to get to know his learners in a different environment, and to build trust that extends beyond the classroom. 

To ensure that he keeps up with new development, Raynor ensures that he familiarises himself with the latest digital and technological advancements. He also strives to maintain positive relationships with every learner he teaches. 

Regarding the NTAs, Raynor says he thoroughly enjoyed the experience and learned a lot through the process. He adds that he will cherish the journey for many years while also vowing to deliver excellence in the classroom as he shapes the minds of the future generations.

Excellence in Primary School Leadership

First place winner 

Londeka Diamond

Westlake Primary School, Western Cape

Londeka Diamond, the founding principal of West Lake Primary School, subscribes to a situational leadership philosophy. In her career thus far she spent nine years raising awareness about the importance of education in the impoverished community of Westlake. She leads a diverse and multi-cultural school consisting of learners with 13 different home languages from all over Africa. 

Her school community consists of homes plagued by social ills such as high unemployment, poverty, gangsterism, alcohol and substance abuse. Not only do these social issues impact directly on her learners’ performance, but they also impact negatively on the teachers’ efforts to improve teaching and learning at the school. 

But despite the challenges, Diamond is positive and strongly believes that the problems her learners experience will never determine their destinies. She believes that these learners can rise above their situations and circumstances with the necessary encouragement and support that they receive from the school. 

She is very passionate and believes that the school environment should be conducive to learning and that leadership and management should be value-driven. Diamond practices a consultative and open-door approach as she believes this will encourage her staff members to actively take part in decision-making processes. In addition, this will promote a dynamic team spirit and the improvement of school academic results. 

Diamond involves all her teaching and non-teaching staff in strategic planning sessions to ensure they all pull in one direction. This also helps to create a healthy and safe working environment where effective teaching and learning can take place. 

Diamond has an MA in education administration, planning and social policy. She is also a deputy chairperson of the Education Management Association of South Africa and she uses this position to develop education managers in her area. She is also involved in other organisations such as Spirit of Africa, the American Embassy and the British Council. 

Second place winner 

Magageng Dorothy Masilo 

Lekwakwa Primary School, North West

Magageng Masilo’s teaching career dates as far back as 1985, when, as a standard seven learner, she used to help her fellow learners who struggled to understand mathematics during afternoon classes. It was during these sessions that Masilo developed a love for teaching and she ultimately decided to pursue it as a career. 

Since she took the helm at Lekwakwa Primary School, there has been significant and noticeable progress. She has improved the school’s infrastructure, resource provisioning, staff recruitment and academic excellence. She says her goal is to strive to ensure her learners take their place on the global stage.

In 2019 she accomplished another set of developments in the form of an artificial sports field, water purification system and the renovation of the grade R play area. These projects and her vision and strong leadership qualities contributed to her winning the provincial NTA. 

Masilo says she is a spiritual woman and a motivational speaker who is always fulfilled by positively touching the lives of those around her. She says she is grateful that being the principal provides her a chance to interact with all key stakeholders of the school: learners, teachers, parents and the broader community. 

Although the school has managed to secure some of the basic material resources, more still needs to be done, according to Masilo. She enjoys exploring creative ways and strategies to generate funds to embark on more projects, but most importantly, to ensure they produce good academic outcomes. 

Third Place Winner 

Zacharia Thulani Nkosi 

Mlondozi Primary School, Mpumalanga 

Zacharia Nkosi uses his poor upbringing to motivate learners that they too can overcome their adversities. He grew up very poor and had to sell tomatoes to make ends meet. He says he experienced the pain of being destitute and his wish was to become a teacher so that he could bring change and motivate learners from poor backgrounds to work hard and secure their futures. 

Nkosi regards himself as a more than just a teacher — he is a social activist who tries to leverage his position to change the lives of his learners and community. He enjoys sharing the little he has with the needy and also reaches out to the poor households where most of his learners come from. 

Nkosi is a perfectionist and he strives to manage and run his school efficiently. He is always willing to share his expertise with his staff and to create opportunities for their growth and professional development, particularly the under-qualified teachers. 

Like most communities in rural communities, Nkosi’s school faces challenges, chief of which is widespread poverty. This affects a huge number of learners who perform poorly or develop learning difficulties. To alleviate this, Nkosi has mastered the art of approaching companies to solicit money or sponsorship so that he can assist the affected learners and families. 

He says he believes strongly that he has won the NTAs because of his unique contribution to the community. He is excited about participating at the national level of awards and believes he is fulfilling his dream of making a difference to his learners’ lives. Nkosi wants to see his staff grow professionally and also to continue to do their best for their learners. He also wants to see his school associated with good academic performance, both at national and international levels. 

Excellence in Secondary School Leadership

First Place Winner 

Wendy Horn 

Protea Heights Academy, Western Cape 

Wendy Horn started her teaching journey in 1992 at Parktown High School for Girls. In 1994, she progressed to and accepted a post at The Settlers High School, where she was the departmental head for mathematics, physical science and technology for grades 8 to 12. She was later promoted to the deputy principal position at the same school. She has established herself as an educator of note who displays tenacity and rigour in the teaching of science and technology. 

In 2014, Horn was appointed as the founding principal of Protea Heights Academy, and was responsible for establishing a newly-built school and ensuring its readiness to start teaching learners as from the first day of school in 2015. This entailed putting all measures in place for the management and governance of the school. 

The school’s shared vision is to provide globally superior education, focusing on mathematics and science supported by advanced technology, and to develop well-balanced learners who will make a positive impact on the community. The school envisions catering for learners who have an interest in coding, programming, information technology, engineering and commerce. Horn actively promotes the use of information and communication technology and e-learning. Learners are supported emotionally, physically and mentally, and the skills required in preparation for the 4th industrial revolution (4IR) are developed. To this end, all aspects of teaching and learning, strategic planning and administration of the school are supported. 

Horn maintains high standards of performance at the school and ensures that the academic outcomes for the year are met so that learners are prepared for success in tertiary education. This goal is achieved through structured monitoring and moderation. Comprehensive and up-to-date records of a high standard are kept.

Staff training, mentoring, support and guidance are conducted in such a manner that teachers are encouraged to do more. Teachers receive consistent training to support their teaching and growth. Horn always inspires her colleagues and engenders trust. 

A wide variety of extramural and co-curricular activities are offered at the school, thus catering for the diverse interests of the learners and ensuring the holistic education of the child.

Horn is an outstanding leader who has achieved top awards such as Top 50 Global Teacher Award Finalist and also won in the NTA category of Excellence in Physical Science Teaching in 2013. She is also a member of the Varkey Teacher Ambassador Programme. 

Second Place Winner 

Sahaboodin Abdull 

Zinniaville Secondary School, North West 

Sahaboodin Abdull used to teach his peers in the absence of their teacher. He never thought at the time that one day he would become a qualified teacher. He says he gets his greatest job satisfaction when learners and teachers work together to achieve common goals. Abdull says he taught several learners who became academically excellent and went on to further their studies at various universities. Most of them are now qualified professionals who are working as qualified engineers, medical doctors and charted accountants.

Abdull’s school is not without challenges and he strives to find creative ways to resolve them because he believes problems are man-made, and not divine. The most common challenges he faces include substance abuse, ill-discipline, unruly behaviour, lack of participation in extracurricular activities, and poor reading and comprehension skills. Where he feels his interventions fall short, he calls for experts’ support. 

Abdull believes teachers should provide strong support to their learners at all times, adding that this should involve adequate lesson plans. He also highlighted other important areas that need attention, such as the reading revolution and empowerment of educators in phonics. 

He says his matric results are always commendable, adding that his pass mark percentage surpassed the provincial and national results, averaging over 98%. Abdull is following in the footsteps of three of his colleagues who have won the NTA in the recent past; he says these achievements have put the name of the school among the best in the country. Abdull says his participation in the NTAs has been a very worthwhile experience.  

Third Place Winner 

Livhalani Bridget Sinyosi 

Dzata Secondary School Limpopo 

Livhalani Sinyosi heads a school with learners who come from child-headed families. But she does not view this as a hindrance; rather she appreciates working in a challenging environment, where she can bring hope and enable the learners to overcome their circumstances through quality education.

Sinyosi did not have to look far for inspiration to pursue teaching as a professional career. Her mother was a qualified teacher who taught her when she was doing her primary schooling. 

Her school is troubled by serious socioeconomic related challenges, such as learners affected by serious health conditions, orphans and vulnerable learners, poverty and teenage pregnancy. As the head of the school it is her obligation to confront these challenges head-on and explore ways of how to mitigate their impact on the performance of the learners and the general running of the school. 

Sinyosi is actively involved in a number of professional education initiatives and associations such as Nzhelele East Circuit and the Education Management Association of South Africa. She also used to serve as a branch education convener in a teacher union, mentored at many schools and also presents an educational programme on Nzhelele FM on Wednesdays.

Excellence in ICT Enhanced Technology 

First Place Winner 

Louise Fullard 

Hoerskool Bergflam, Mpumalanga 

Louise Fullard started teaching 25 years ago. She feels she was a born teacher because she always had an inner desire to teach. She is a highly motivated person who wants to be ahead of the curve and wants to leave behind an enduring legacy. 

She believes she is a futurist and a visionary and has confidence in her ability to approach a challenge, to anticipate, resolve and identify possible steps to address it. She laments the fact that many people do not seem to fully comprehend the impact and the effect that 4IR will have on our society, education and future. She advises people to accept and embrace technology as part of our everyday lives. She reckons that teachers also need to adopt technology so that they can prepare their learners for a digital future. 

A district director once described her as a national agent of change, especially with regard to digital education and 4IR. Fullard believes in collaboration among teachers who teach ICT. She uses cloud technology to store and share all her teaching and learning materials with her colleagues. The material is in the public domain and can be accessed easily and free of charge by learners and educators across the country.  

Driven by a passion to promote ICT and to create a platform where more knowledge can be shared, Fullard initiated and hosted a 4IR Indaba at her school, inviting various stakeholders such as educators, students, and experts on education, sponsors, leaders, inspirational speakers and VIP DBE officials. 

She says winning the NTA has inspired and encouraged her to pursue her 4IR dream for education in the country. He will use this accolade to reach out to more schools in her district and also assist equip them in areas of technological need.

Second Place Winner 

Clemence Tebogo Molepo

Kgwadu Primary School, Limpopo 

Clemence Molepo chose teaching because he wanted to be part of change and to specifically transform the lives of his learners and the community. This, he says, can only be achieved if he pursued teaching.

He says he also took teaching as he has a natural inclination to work and interact with children. Molepo says teaching is not a one-way street where it is only teachers who impart knowledge to learners; teachers must also learn from them. He encourages teachers to be open-minded and accept that their learners can teach them one or two things.  

He is one of the chief proponents of ICT and he strongly believes that to keep up with the needs of 21st century, teachers should integrate technology to enrich learners’ classroom learning experiences. Molepo also networks with young teachers with a view to developing them into a core team that will help drive initiatives geared towards achieving vision 2030 and beyond. 

Although he teaches large classes and faces a critical shortage of technological infrastructure, Molepo is driven by the enthusiasm and the drive displayed by the learners. He consistently explores creative and innovative ways to navigate these challenges. 

He believes technology is the powerful tool that could help teachers to deliver an engaging quality teaching. His long-term aim is to help learners and teachers to effectively harness the power of technology for educational purposes.

Third Place Winner 

Adriana Martina Pretorius 

Laerskool Rustenburg-Noord Primary, North West 

The desire to make a difference in the lives of the learners is what drove Adriana Pretorius to become a teacher. She also realised that teaching is not just a profession, but also a mission and a calling. 

She believes that children are like clay and the teacher’s responsibility is to mould and shape them accordingly. She says it is only through teaching that she can fulfil her desire to contribute to the shaping of new world of tomorrow. Pretorius says she draws inspiration from the words of actress Vicky Davis, who said: “When we connect our learners with the world, we are building bridges today that tomorrow we will walk across.” 

Pretorius says being with children makes her feel young and always joyful. She says she particularly likes their honesty, inquisitiveness, laughter, endless energy and their desire to always want to push the envelope. 

She has tapped into her knowledge of technology to develop a Visual Basic for Applications programme that runs on Excel. The application helps teachers to cope with the large amount of paperwork such as when they do assessments, plan lessons and do data collection. More importantly, this saves educators time so that they can spend more time in the classroom than doing administration work.  

Pretorius enjoys sharing her knowledge with her fellow educators and also encourages them to integrate technology in their daily work. To make up for the lack of a whiteboard, Pretorius dipped into her own pockets to buy her own projector and laptop and this helped to energise the learners. 

She has also developed an assessment task program for the learners to complete in class. Pretorius says through technology her learners are able to engage with the content and it also makes the assessment task more interesting and easier. 

Her proficient use of technology in teaching as well as encouraging her peers to embrace it, has no doubt contributed to her being nominated for the NTAs. She said she will continue to work towards developing ICT infrastructure in her school, as this is where her passion lies.

Excellence in Teaching Natural Science (GET)

First Place Winner 

Mercia Mthombeni 

Bunny Khosa Secondary School, Mpumalanga 

Mercia Mthombeni’s main desire is to make a difference by encouraging children to prioritise education so that they can combat the scourge of poverty in her community. She also wants to project teaching as a career of choice as a way of changing the perception among most children that education is for the elderly. She says she uses her own situation to motivate her learners that it is possible to make it in life despite one’s poor background. 

What she enjoys the most about teaching is the fact that she is able to interact with learners, colleagues and the parents with one common objective — turning their school into a centre of excellence. Mthombeni says she feels fulfilled when she is in front of enthusiastic learners to help them understand how to relate to the content. 

As with most schools based in impoverished communities, her schools face some challenges which include basic resources, learners who are not motivated about education and the widespread poverty. To address these difficulties, Mthombeni tries to go the extra mile and uses her own resources such as buying her own data bundles to surf the internet and research some of the topics related to science. 

She always tries to stimulate and generate interest among the learners by connecting science to their real-life situations. She believes that in most instances learners fail certain subjects because teachers fail to make them relevant to their learners. 

Mthombeni encourages other teachers to step up and use their own resources to help bring change in the lives of the learners. She believes that being real and doing extraordinary work at school is what keeps her going as a teacher. She says winning the NTA is an indication that her work is recognised and that the love she has for teaching and her learners is appreciated. 

Second Place Winner 

Shadrack Nkosana Kheswa 

The Sentinel Primary School, Free State 

Shadrack Kheswa regards the teaching profession as an eternal source of hope. He says teaching enables him to bring about positive changes in the lives of learners. He says he uses teaching as a tool to touch and inspire young people to better themselves and to develop the country. Kheswa says he chose teaching because he wants to help to nurture and mould learners’ talent and also help them determine their own destiny.

The most favourite part of his career is performing scientific research and doing experiments with learners. He also enjoys working with learners with different personalities and talents and to help them unleash their potential within and outside the classrooms. Kheswa also motivates learners about life, sport and other areas that make their lives worthwhile. 

He highlights the scarcity of scientific apparatus as one of the major challenges he faces at his school. In addition, the school has overcrowded classrooms and parents are not actively involved in the education of their children. 

He is presently studying towards an MA specialising in natural sciences curriculum at the University of Free State. He plans to be a natural sciences subject specialist and help South Africa to solve the scarcity of scientists, doctors, and specialists in engineering and other science-related fields required to develop the country’s economy. He also plans to dedicate his life to scientific research to help close the skills and knowledge gap in the country.

Kheswa is highly regarded within the science community and has participated in a number of science events and activities. He once represented the Free State in an international science fair as a judge. He consistently produces excellent natural sciences results and many of his learners have established science careers. 

Third Place Winner 

Ayesha Ahmed Ismail 

Zinniaville Secondary School, North West 

Ayesha Ismail subscribes to a view that education is the key in overcoming challenges and obstacles. After completing a degree in information science, she felt the only profession that could give her a sense of purpose was teaching, so she decided to do a post graduate certificate in education (PGCE) to qualify as a teacher and thus fulfil her dream. 

As a natural science teacher Ismael uses technology and interactive education to stimulate learners’ participation as well as enhance her lessons. She believes that education serves to develop the child’s mind and she tries to improve their classroom learning experience. As a natural science teacher, Ismael likes to relate science to the lives of learners so that they do well in the subject and take up careers that will ultimately help the country to respond to its immediate needs and demands. 

Ismael is compassionate, understanding and treats her class not only as a collective but also tries to make each child feel valued. She believes every child is different and treats each one of them in terms of who they are and not according to where they come from. Ismael appreciates changes and believes that teachers should subscribe to the basic requirements of teaching which is to share knowledge with the learners. 

Ismael hails the NTAs because not it motivates and appreciates the teachers’ hard work, but also affirms the importance of the profession. She wants to use the lessons learned during the awards to develop herself professionally and to mentor other educators.  

Lifetime Achievement Award

First place winner 

Jacobus Johannes Du Plessis van Rensburg 

Ligbron Academy of Technology, Mpumalanga 

Winning the lifetime achievement award represents a culmination of a long teaching career for Jacobus du Plessis van Rensburg. Initially, he vacillated between becoming either a preacher or an attorney. But thanks to his high school headmaster who coached him about a range of careers he could pursue, he settled for teaching. 

During his 43-year teaching career, he has gone out of his way and engaged in many projects and organisations to benefit the people and children around him. He has always been purpose-driven, professional and organised. He has been surrounded by excellent and skilled people. Because of his contribution, he received respect from every person he came into contact with, irrespective of race, religion or financial and social status. 

Du Plessis van Rensburg used his self-innovative skills to develop national projects where thousands of underprivileged pupils were supported, mainly with online mathematics and science classes, through interactive smart boards, for the past 11 years. 

He says he enjoys interacting with the school community and finds joy in leading pupils to become valuable citizens who respect others’ religion, culture and individualism. He says at his fully inclusive school, he helped build a professional learning support centre with dedicated posts to support the learners in areas such as academics, and for those who face social, emotional, spiritual problems. It also provides financial aid to the needy. 

Du Plessis van Rensburg advises his fellow teachers not to pay lip service to the profession. Instead, he says, they must be honest in every aspect of their lives and act in the best interest of the people surrounding them, without seeking fame. In addition, he cautions teachers to focus, at all times, on the best interest of the child and refrain at all times from engaging in any conflict situation. 

Du Plessis van Rensburg says as the chief executive officer of Ligbron e-Learning Systems, winning the Lifetime Achievement Award category will help open doors and enable him to network easily with potential sponsors to fund more upliftment programmes.

Second Place Winner 

Melesi Johannes Monnaphiri 

Navalsig High School, Free State 

Melesi Monnaphiri grew up at a time when black people had few career options. Of the careers available to them at the time, teaching became his obvious choice. He became a teacher because he believed that teaching would not only enable him to rise above his circumstances, but he would also become a respected member of the community. Perhaps more importantly, it is through teaching that he could impact the lives of the children and youth around him, most of whom experienced many hardships. 

Monnaphiri enjoys being a team player, particularly in an environment where different people are driven by a passion to better the lives of children. He says children must be seen as important assets of the country and that teachers should display selflessness, sacrifice, passion and dedication as they shape them into becoming responsible future leaders. 

He cites family backgrounds and the diverse personalities of staff members, learners and their parents as some of the key challenges the school encounters. Monnaphiri says most learners come from either child-headed families, single parent homes or homes in which they are left in the care of an elderly relative. Drugs, alcohol and social media influences also feature among some of the factors that impact negatively on the learning environment, says Monnaphiri. 

As a team player, he ensures that he involves all the key stakeholders to find creative solutions to these challenges. He believes he attained the high level of professionalism because of the solid experience he acquired during his teaching days as well as his futuristic and forward planning. 

Monnaphiri says he will to continue to share his valuable knowledge and expertise to make a positive change in the lives of the learners and teachers as he has been doing for many decades.

Third place winner 

Stephen Sebopetsa 

Rathaga Primary School, Limpopo 

It came as no surprise when Stephen Sebopetsa chose to become a teacher, because his father was also a teacher, and it looked as though he already had teaching qualities, because illiterate elderly people from the community always asked him to help them read or write letters. 

As a teacher, Sebopetsa enjoys the company of his learners and making sure he influences their lives in a positive way. His priority has always been to ensure that he teaches in such a manner that will contribute significantly to the future wellbeing of his learners. Sebopetsa believes that through teaching he can mould the learners into becoming responsible citizens who will take pride in their country and work to develop it into a better place. 

Sebopetsa’s major irritation are peers who report for duty and fail to do what they came to do at school: teach. He strongly holds the view that the key ingredients for success in teaching are total commitment, hard work, innovation, sacrifice, selflessness and the desire to help the community or school without expecting of any financial reward. 

He wants to continue to do more of the same and also avail himself to lend a hand to disadvantage learners and families. He also wants to write a book and assist teachers, through the Masters and Doctor’s degree Study Club, on how to draft proposals or dissertations for their masters or doctoral degree for universities. Sebopetsa is also a regular participant at education conferences, both locally and internationally, where he presents seminal academic papers. His long-term personal wish is to establish an education foundation that will assist individuals in educational matters such as career choices and bursaries.

Kader Asmal Award

First Place Winner 

Ian William Galbraith 

Lilyfontein School, Eastern Cape Province 

Ian Galbraith is currently on retirement, having spent valuable teaching time at the Lilyfontein School. From the very beginning, Gailbraith went into teaching with a singular purpose of making learning a valued and enriching experience for youngsters. 

Nothing excites him more than to hear about or see some of his learners having grown and developed intellectually, and having fulfilled their dreams. In addition, he likes to see them having developed in other critical spheres of their lives and becoming valued citizens. Gailbraith is inspired to work with and surround himself with creative people who are positive and willing to take initiative. He also likes to create an environment that promotes lively discussions among learners and teachers.  

His passion is a brain-based learning and neurology science. He believes that dealing with people presents a challenge but is also fascinated by the notion of transforming people’s thinking, which requires more creative thinking. 

He says being the winner of the Kader Asmal award is a clear recognition of his efforts in helping learners overcome barriers, ranging from financial to social. More importantly, Gailbraith says the award is a sign of gratitude for having given the learners the opportunity to enjoy schooling and to succeed academically. Gailbraith also believes the award will not only raise his profile but also increase his credibility. He says it is a timely endorsement for the projects he is involved in as they look for future funding. 

With funding from a Norwegian company, Gailbraith is currently involved in a project that facilitates a brain trust comprising retired educators, principals, circuit managers and university lecturers that provides support services to schools. He also provides mentoring support in school leadership and management, English (First Additional Language), maths, science and the foundation phase. 

Second Place Winner 

Phuti Ragophala 

Pula-Madibogo Primary School, Limpopo

Phuti Ragophala’s first career choice was nursing but as fate would have it, she ended up being a teacher. While the medical fraternity has lost someone who would have added value to the profession, it a big gain to education as her peers and learners who have been through her hands can attest today. 

Her teaching career was punctuated by a series of successes which saw her win a series of accolades for her contribution to the education system. After teaching for some years, Ragophala was rewarded with a top position of becoming a school principal, which she held until she retired. But instead of enjoying her pension, upon her retirement Ragophala remained within the system as a teacher. She became one of the first educators to embrace digital technology, online teaching and the other latest technologies such as social media platforms. 

Throughout her teaching career, Ragophala always considered teaching as a medium to change the lives of learners, particularly orphans and vulnerable children, many of whom she helped to become leading members in their communities.  

She says some of the challenges she used to wrestle with during her teaching time included the lack of physical and human resources and a shortage of land and space. To resolve the problem, Ragophala partnered with the University of Limpopo, which gladly obliged and responded to her school’s needs.   

To Ragophala, winning the Kader Asmal award is a culmination of a long journey. She says this journey was characterised by the promotion of selfless leadership, putting people first, acquiring 21st century skills and the desire to be a global citizen and a teacher without borders. 

Third Place Winner 

Arlene Holding 

Fields College, North West 

What makes Arlene Holding enjoy teaching is the simple fact that every day is different and brings with it its own challenges. She also likes to engage with children, because of their honesty and their endless eagerness to learn. 

Holding believes that teachers should strive to move with times and review their teaching methods to accommodate new changes. One of these is technology, which she feels teachers should adopt to enhance their teaching and to make lessons exciting for the learners. She says nothing excites and fulfils her than to bring real and tangible changes to her learners’ lives and to help them face the future with confidence. 

During her teaching career she has built lasting friendships and relations with her past learners and the community at large. Today she still gets to meet and interact with them through social activities such as weddings, birthday celebrations and funerals. 

Holding says one of the challenges that used to devastate her was when she had to handle family situations, particularly divorce, which resulted in families falling apart. She says the impact of this was big and had a serious negative impact on the children’s schooling, with some dropping out or performing poorly. 

She feels she has left a lasting impact on each child she taught. She is a hard worker, always positive and believes in strong work ethics and encourages teachers to share best teaching practices with one another. 

She is excited to be among the winners of the Kader Asmal Award and wants to use this to inspire other teachers to work hard and to always put the interest of the child first. Holding says she would like to mentor young teachers and wants to use her success to show them that they too can achieve more if they work selflessly and with a sense of purpose. 

Excellence in Teaching Mathematics (GET)

First Place Winner 

Constance Kgomotso Pilane 

Mafenya Primary School, North West

Mathematics is one of the subjects that the country declared critical as it seeks to build a pool of young scientists, data specialist, engineers and artisans. To produce learners who are good in maths, the education system needs more proficient and passionate teachers such as Constance Pilane. One of the major stumbling block they have to deal with is the perception that maths is a “difficult” subject, and this requires teachers to be very creative in teaching the subject.

Pilane has all what it takes: she’s a workaholic, she’s imaginative and also like working and interacting with children. She says children are energetic and inquisitive and this challenges her to come up with innovative teaching techniques to accommodate them. She says she likes to be kept on her toes. In fact, she says, this is what made her chose teaching, a profession she has served for a solid 24 years with outstanding commitment. Pilane holds the view that everything starts in the classroom, and that her responsibility is to shape her learners into becoming informed citizens and to compete favourably with their peers. 

To sustain her learners’ interest and attention, Pilane has devised exciting teaching approaches. These include the use of games, group work and making sure she relates themes and learning areas to the learners’ real-life situations. She ensures that every game or activity that she uses helps learners to develop and sharpen their skills, such as creative thinking, problem-solving, conceptual and cognitive thinking and reasoning. 

Pilane says being a teacher also involves being able to juggle a lot of needs and challenges. Among these is the need to understand the different academic needs of each learner and dealing with difficult parents who do not get involved in their children’s education. But she says despite all these problems, her job is to create an environment that fosters love, warmth and is an enjoyable learning experience for the learners. 

Pilane believes that maths is a practical subject that requires constant practice. She always encourages learners and teachers to collaborate in maths related activities. She says she wants to see more South African learners taking maths as their favourite subject, including at university level. This way, Pilane argues, the country will benefit from its maths geniuses instead of importing experts from outside the country. 

Second Place Winner 

Nombuso Precious Thobela 

Likhweti Primary School, Mpumalanga 

Nombuso Thobela’s attributes her love for mathematics to her former grade 12 teacher, who taught the subject so well that she wanted to follow in her footsteps. Since then she never looked back; she studied until she became the qualified maths and computer applications technology teacher she is today. 

Thobela also wants to use the subject to inspire and encourage her learners to overcome the perception that maths is a difficult subject. She also believes to produce more learners who excel in maths will help the country to be able to roll out the basic infrastructure projects such as houses, bridges and schools. 

To break down some of the abstract maths concepts, Thobela engages in a variety of fun-filled activities. She says this enables her learners to be free, more open and to participate actively in the subject. As a technology teacher she uses ICT and other recent technologies to enrich her teaching and enhance her learners’ classroom experience. She encourages her learners to pursue careers in the technology and the digital space so that they can take advantage of opportunities created by 4IR. 

Thobela’s philosophy is that a teacher should take his or her work seriously by preparing thoroughly for lessons. She believes discipline and hard work are important values for a successful academic career. 

She is also involved in a number of professional development initiatives and uses this to network with peers on how best they can teach mathematics. Thobela always explores new and innovative ways of how to improve her teaching career. She believes that the success of learners in a particular subject is a reflection of how much a teacher puts into his or her work. 

Thobela says that getting involved in the NTA was a valuable experience from which she learned a lot and developed herself professionally. She says this marked a culmination of a hard work and she is grateful for the support and the belief her peers have in her. 

Third Place Winner 

Gertrude Joalane Phirimana 

Zamukuhle Junior Secondary School, Eastern Cape 

From a very young age Gertrude Phirimana cherished a dream of becoming a teacher. While her peers struggled to decide which career path they would follow, Phirimana’s mind was already made up. 

She says she used to regale her friends during break intervals by imitating some of her teachers’ classroom teaching styles. She feels she was cut for teaching because of her natural love for working with young children. She is patient and willing to go out of her way to make sure each individual learner is happy and enjoys her lessons. 

Phirimana encourages her learners to think independently and to be creative in tackling some of the mathematical theories and concepts. She always reminds her learners that the secret to doing well in maths is constant practice and hard work. 

Zamokuhle Primary School is an overcrowded school and this makes it difficult for teachers to take care of every learner’s academic needs. Most learners experience problems at home and often these impact negatively on their learning at school. The big classroom sizes make it difficult for teachers to attend to every learner. 

Phirimana tries to keep her learners constantly occupied by giving them a series of maths-related tasks and activities. She also offers afternoon classes to try and help learners address sections of the syllabus they struggle with. She uses every available opportunity to network with her maths peers, and also attends workshops and conferences to expand her knowledge and to learn about some of the innovative ways of teaching maths. 

Excellence in Special Needs Teaching

First Place Winner 

Catarina Engelbrecht

Platorand Special School, Mpumalanga 

Teaching special needs learners requires a caring, selfless and patient person; Catarina Engelbrecht ticks all the boxes, as she displays and practises all these values all the time. She says it took her a while to decide which career she wanted to pursue, but she finally settled on teaching quite late in her life. The idea of becoming a teacher took root after she gave lessons in piano, ballet and art to schools on a part-time basis. From then on she was hooked.

Engelbrecht says she enjoys every moment of working with special needs children. She says she finds it particularly fulfilling to see learners overcome difficulties they encountered when they first started in her class. Many leave the school as free, confident, independent and more knowledgeable people.

Engelbrecht is able to give individual attention to each learner and through this approach she is able to attend to every learner’s academic need. To deal with the challenge of lack of resources, Engelbrecht encourages parents and the community to make financial donations towards buying some of the specialised equipment the school needs. 

She has started a recycling project to generate cash for the school and has collaborated with various corporate and industrial companies to provide financial support. You have to be creative and resourceful, says Engelbrecht, particularly when you teach learners with disabilities. She says she adapts her teaching methods as well as the assessment tool to suit each learner’s individual needs. 

Engelbrecht goes out of her way to learn more and to improve her understanding on how best she can make learning experience of learners with disabilities more enjoyable. To share her experience with other special needs teachers, Engelbrecht has developed a teaching guide, which she hopes to publish soon. She thinks her commitment and creativity is what sets her apart from her competitors in the NTAs.

Second Place Winner 

Khomotso Athalia Madike 

Tlamelang Special School, North West 

Khomotso Madike believes inclusive education starts at home and that parents should provide maximum support to their disabled children so that they can feel better equipped to face the world on their own. 

Madike so wanted to get involved in her child’s education that she abandoned her dream of studying to become an information technology business analyst specialist. It dawned on her that there was something wrong with her daughter when she failed crèche due to her learning disabilities. 

It then became her mission to immerse herself in the world of disabilities so that she could understand it better. This enabled her to learn various ways to teach and help her child to deal better with her situation. This not only benefitted her child; other learners with disabilities got help. She says she uses out-of-the box teaching approach to address learners’ diverse academic needs and learning barriers. 

Madikwe believes that teaching learners with disabilities requires teachers who are willing to work hard and are committed to the teaching profession.  Her dream is to form a support network of parents whose children are living with disabilities. She believes this will motivate parents who cannot cope with the challenges associated with bringing up a child with disabilities. 

She intends to do more research and further her studies in inclusive education right up to the doctoral level. This, she believes, will equip her to better deal and address some of the challenges facing learners with disabilities and the broader sector at large. Madikwe says winning the NTA is a confirmation that her work is valued and the next prize in sight for her is the Global Teacher Award. 

Third Place Winner 

Parween Manjoo 

Inkanyiso Special School, KwaZulu-Natal 

Parween Manjoo is naturally a caring and empathetic person and teaching learners with disabilities deepened these values even more in her. It was also one of her dreams to work closely with young people because she finds them always eager to learn, trusting and yet challenging with their inquisitive minds.

Manjoo is a trained psychologist; she wanted to use teaching as an avenue through which she could meaningfully contribute to society. She decided to enrol for a postgraduate certificate in education, popularly referred to as a PGCE, so that she could qualify as a teacher.  

Soon after obtaining the certificate she found a teaching post at Inkanyiso Special Needs School — fulfilling her long-cherished dream of standing in front of a classroom full of the little ones. 

Although her learners have various disabilities, Manjoo treats them like other learners with no barriers and she makes sure this is displayed during her interactions with them. She says it gives her a sense of joy and also a source of inspiration to see her learners respond and participate enthusiastically to her teaching. Her use of art, play and games resonates well with her learners and keeps them constantly engaged. 

Because of her passion and hard work, Manjoo was rewarded with a promotion to become a head of department of the foundation phase. She used her new position to develop herself professionally and also to network with peers to explore ways of improving and developing best teaching methodologies for learners with special needs. 

Manjoo believes in lifelong learning and she reads widely, does a lot of research and attends workshops regularly to explore innovative ways of curriculum delivery, particularly for children with learning barriers. 

Her main goal is to help disabled learners to overcome the psychological barriers that limit their potential. She wants them to be confident, self-sufficient and always believe that they can contribute something valuable to their communities and the country at large. She also believes that teaching should not just be about helping learners succeed academically, but must assist in developing them holistically.

Manjoo is not a selfish person, she always shares what she knows with her peers and she does this by hosting regular outreach programmes. She regards her participation in the NTAs as a direct outcome of her hard work and commitment to special needs education and the entire teaching profession. 



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