Teaching is not merely a profession, it is a path of life where its travelers help mould the future, guiding children on the road of education and love.
At Huttenpark Primary School are a group of teachers who have dedicated a bulk of their lives to their careers and the community’s children.
Maggie Grobler has taught at the school for 35 years, Michelle McKenzie 33 years, Adri Le Roux for 26 years, Lyn de Jager for 30 years, Mariaan Vermaas for 26 years, Clary van Rooyen for 24 years and Neil Grobler for 20 years. Adding to the golden era of school staff, Annie Fourie has helped man the tuck shop for 30 years.
Has the school world changed over the decades?
According to the seven staff members, the education system has changed drastically over the years.
“I like to think the children have changed, while we the teachers have stayed the same,” laughed Michelle.
Maggie said the curriculum has evolved over the years. “We do a lot more work with the children, but with the same allocated time schedules.”
But surely this extra work load is for the older children? Apparently not, as Clary says Grade 1s are doing more work now than in previous years.
Furthermore, Maggie explains a teacher’s job is not restricted from Monday to Friday between the hours of 8am to 2pm. With extracurricular activities, teachers are often busy all day and must sacrifice their weekends on a regular basis for the children in their classrooms.
If being a teacher is so much work, why have these teachers stayed in their profession for so long?
Michelle explains teaching is rewarding. “Seeing how the children develop, makes it worth it,” adds Lynn de Jager.
Adri emphasises that seeing the positive difference on a child’s life, adds value to your life. One of the fun parts of teaching, according to Maggie, is seeing children you once taught bring their children to school.
“We actually have a lot of teachers on our staff now, that we once taught. Because of this, we feel that if we leave one day, the school will be in good hands,” Maggie says.
Through the children adding value to their lives, these teachers claim this was just part of the reason for them staying so long. “There are challenges, but we have a strong support system, great parents and we are a family,” enthused Neil.
A special breed of educators, this band of teachers have seen it all and have fond memories over the years. “I regret not keeping a journal when I started, recording on all that has happened in my class through the years. But, when a new teacher starts by us, I give them a book and encourage them to write about what happens,” Maggie says.
But, while the teachers share a lot of laughs together, they do face a fair deal of heartache. “There is a lot of emotional stuff which passes through our classrooms,” Mariaan said. She said this ranged from children dealing with divorced parents to other negative issues within their lives.
“There are times, when you as the teacher are the only one in that child’s life that gives them love,” she said.
Neil added with social aspects such as divorce, single parent homes, or where both parents worked, teachers were often a remaining fixture in many children’s lives.
“You get very attached to the children and because they are like sponges, taking in everything that you have to offer, there are days where you go home drained.”
But would these teachers give their jobs up because of the obstacles they face?
A resounding NO comes from them. For these staff members, nothing can compare to coming to school every day.
In fact, they all encourage other people to become teachers, especially if they have a passion for seeing children flourish.
A special thanks must go out to these staff members for dedicating their lives so selflessly to Newcastle’s children. We at the Newcastillian applaud you, for your continued development of our youth.