Western Cape Top Teachers Awards 2017

An extract of Minister Debbie Schafer’s speech delivered on Friday 3rd November 2017 at the 18th Annual Western Cape Top Teachers Awards.

It gives me great pleasure to join you all once again this evening, at the 18th Annual Provincial Teaching Awards Ceremony, to celebrate and recognise the achievements of our educators in the Province.

It is a special pleasure this year to also welcome our Premier, Helen Zille, and her husband, Professor Johann Maree,

Mr Brian Schreuder – Head of the Western Cape Education Department
Special guests
Senior management of the WCED, District Directors and officials
Members of the Teaching Profession and unions
Ladies and Gentlemen

And most importantly, tonight’s Award Recipients

Tonight we celebrate excellence in teaching.

The WCED puts great emphasis on acknowledging excellence and recognising teachers who inspire and motivate our children every day.

For this reason, we adopted the Year of the Teacher as a key theme for 2017.  Our SG proposed 2017 as the Year of the Teacher in order to emphasise the importance of values in education, and the central role that teachers play in teaching and demonstrating these values in the classroom.

As a Government, we have identified six core values that drive our approach to public service. And for those of you who STILL don’t know, these are: caring, competence, accountability, integrity, innovation and responsiveness.

So many people in the WCED are already demonstrating these values in countless ways.

We have also used the Year of the Teacher to encourage parents, learners and teachers to identify excellent teachers and principals who provide outstanding examples of educators who are making a massive difference in our schools and communities. 

Tonight we are celebrating some of these teachers, teachers who are giving their all in very difficult circumstances.

Since I have been in office I have heard of a number of incredible stories of teachers or principals who really go way above and beyond the call of duty in caring for the children in their class or their school.

So this year, to celebrate the Year of the Teacher, I have introduced four special awards to be presented tonight.  They include:

  1. Year of the Teacher – Primary School Teacher
  2. Year of the Teacher – High School Teacher  
  3. Year of the Teacher – Primary School Teacher Special Needs
  4. Year of the Teacher – High School Teacher Special Needs
Mariëtte Vorster – Touwsranten Prim

In August, I made a special appeal to all learners to submit to the Department nominations for these awards. Learners were asked to identify teachers who provide outstanding examples of educators who are making a massive difference in our schools and communities.  They were asked to submit, through various forms of media, both visual and written, why they believed that their teacher should be nominated and what they liked the most about their teachers.

The closing date for nominations was at the end of September and I was pleasantly surprised by the numbers that we received.

Given that these nominations came from learners, unfortunately mostly primary school learners, one can imagine that some of the feedback was very entertaining, particularly to the question: “What do you like most about your teacher?”

It soon became evident, that for Primary School learners – looks are a major factor when answering this question. The number of learners who wrote “I like her long flowing hair” or “She wears beautiful dresses”, was quite surprising.

We received many nominations from one school, Chatsworth PS, where learners nominated a variety of educators both male and female. From their nominations one would think that their teaching team is made up of Mr and Miss Universe finalists!

Probably the most entertaining answer of all nominations, however, by a Primary School learner, was “What I like most about my teacher is he is fat like me!”

But in all seriousness, I was delighted that so many learners indicated that they liked that their teacher gave them classwork or homework to do. This was an ongoing theme in the nominations and something that is most encouraging. It reveals that our young learners have a hunger to learn no matter what their socio-economic situation.

For High School learners, many of them just appreciate support.  The lack of parental support in some communities for their children and their education is a sad reality.  For some learners, the encouragement they receive from their teachers is sometimes the only positive reinforcement they receive. Reading some of the nominations, it became very clear to me the important role that each of our educators plays in these learners’ lives and that is why tonight is such an important night, that we honour both our National Teaching award finalists and the Year of the Teacher award nominees.

I have to say, that I am well aware of the thousands of educators who are also deserving of this Year of the Teacher award, but did not get nominated by their learners. While this is unfortunate, we are delighted with the calibre of educators who are finalists tonight.

We will present the additional Year of the Teacher Awards in the following categories with winners and runners-up:

  1. Year of the Teacher – Primary School Teacher : Winner + two runner-ups
  2. Year of the Teacher – High School Teacher   Winner + one runner-up
  3. Year of the Teacher – Primary School Teacher – Special Needs Education : Winner and two runner-ups
  4. Year of the Teacher – High School Teacher – Special Needs Education : Winner only
Thembekile Bango – Thembalethu Prim

This is largely related to the number of nominations received.

In addition to the Year of the Teacher Awards, we are also honouring outstanding individuals who have demonstrated commitment and dedication to the teaching profession.

I must admit that I am greatly impressed by the competition this year and the nominations and motivations that we received.

The six core values of caring, competence, accountability, integrity, innovation and responsiveness were evident in every single nomination and it was clear that our teachers have displayed an undeniable commitment to making a difference in our learners’ lives – in and beyond the classroom.

You have gone that extra mile to acquaint yourself with your learners’ personal and domestic circumstances and in turn tailoring your teaching methods to the learner’s individual needs ensuring that they have a fair chance to live the lives that they deserve.
Each of you is faced with a range of challenges every day – we have sadly become used to hearing about – gangsterism, drug abuse, an abused child, a community with little hope or ambition, or a child that has special needs. 
I am overwhelmed to see how many of you go above and beyond the call of duty and work with learners, parents and the community to develop their skills. This whole of society approach is what is required to take us forward and make a real difference in our province and society.

In an ever changing and diverse education system, it is important that our educators are able to think innovatively and find different ways of working and thinking more creatively. 

For example, one teacher here tonight works tirelessly to promote critical thinking skills using different approaches and strategies to improve maths and literacy. She does this while considering the diversity and needs of her learners. Passionate about environmental education, she has built and runs the school’s food garden which supplements their feeding and nutrition scheme and educates learners about ‘going green’ through clean-up campaigns and environmentally-friendly programmes.

Another example is one of our teachers here tonight who has embraced ICT in her school and, I believe, in her home too.  This educator transformed her classroom from a traditional, ordinary teaching room into a facility where the application of technology is the order of the day and she did the same with their school, despite the daunting challenges that came with it.  This educator opened her home to help anybody wanting to learn more about ICT in the classroom and has involved the parents in the learning process by sharing her lessons with them and provide Mathematics and Home Language analysis reports.  One of the most remarkable qualities of a good leader is that they develop new leaders. We are so fortunate to have such extraordinary leaders in our schools.  I will plan to visit that school as soon as I can find an available time slot.

These are just two examples.  In each candidate’s motivation, there were many examples of outstanding leadership and contributions from teachers across the province. Leaders who have instilled values and a sense of pride in themselves, their school and their communities.

It also excites me to see how many of you are running new and innovative programmes in your schools, how you have partnered with NGO’s and private organisations to leverage resources available to you and to improve teaching and learning at your school. 

A mark of strong character is an individual’s sense of responsibility to oneself and to the community. Many teachers here tonight play a crucial role not only as teachers but as role models and caregivers to some of our most vulnerable learners.

I am so pleased to see that we have such committed and dedicated educators. Every child deserves a teacher who will not give up on them, will see their potential, and will encourage them to be the very best that they can be.

I could go on for hours about all the wonderful things that our teachers, our most prized possessions, are doing in our schools, but tonight is not about me.

Each and every one of the educators who are here tonight has demonstrated commitment, dedication and unreserved passion to the teaching profession. 

Tonight’s celebration is of course not the end of this process. I should sincerely like to wish all our winners the best of luck in the National round of the teaching awards.  It would be fantastic to see some Western Cape winners!  Regardless, you are all winners in our eyes already.

I would like to thank everyone who was involved in making tonight’s event possible. Special thanks must go to the Year of the Teacher Awards adjudication panel who spent many hours sifting through the many nominations.

The final panel included, Berenice Daniels, Lance Abrahams, Irene King, and Bruce Probyn (Chairperson of the Education Council).  Thank you.

I believe that the panel so enjoyed this exercise that at least some of them think we should have this again.

A special mention must be made of Gavin de Bruyn for not only being part of this panel, but for also giving up much of his time to assist with the logistics of these awards. I have been informed that both Gavin and his team have been extremely helpful.  Gavin is one of our stars in the WCED who truly embodies this government’s values.

I would like to thank you all once again, for your contribution towards excellence in our schools. Education is fundamental in any society, and whether our learners receive a good education or a bad education can determine the rest of their lives.

I hope you will always continue to have the passion, commitment and resilience that you have shown thus far and that together we can make a huge impact on our province and our country.

I can’t end off without a special acknowledgement to all of you who have worked so hard over the last year.  We are in difficult times as a country, which is affecting our finances terribly as a province.  Whilst we are doing everything we can to maximise every cent we get, we are facing huge difficulties with overcrowding and many other issues.  I am very grateful for the understanding of the vast majority of you, and your dedication to our young people in spite of this.

Thanks also to SG Brian Schreuder for his leadership in this regard.

But for now, let’s get back to this evening’s celebration!

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