Dusting the chalk off

2015-11-03 06:00
Gerald “Gerry” Hendricks has retired after 36 years at St John’s Roman Catholic Primary School in Kensington, the last 18 years having been principal. He says the experience was heart-warming as everyone accepted him without question.  PHOTO: TIYESE

Gerald “Gerry” Hendricks has retired after 36 years at St John’s Roman Catholic Primary School in Kensington, the last 18 years having been principal. He says the experience was heart-warming as everyone accepted him without question. PHOTO: TIYESE

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Gerald “Gerry” Hendricks, principal of St John’s Roman Catholic Primary School in Kensington, has hanged his coat up after 36 years at the school.

He says he greeted his last day on Friday with mixed feelings as a lot goes into it when someone has to retire.

“It’s not just a decision to walk away. You have to set the date and start with the paperwork. That is not easy because over the years this has become your life and just shutting the door like that is very difficult,” he says.

Gerry remembers vividly how it was when he started teaching at the school in 1980.

“The first day I walked into a classroom I was overwhelmed. I walked in and all the children looked at me. They watched my every move and they watched how I spoke. After saying our prayers they all sat down quietly, looking at me and that’s when I realised how big the task was. I knew I wasn’t there to waste any time but to add value to their lives,” he says.

Over time he moved up the ranks and 18 years ago he become principal of the school.

“When I got the position it was unbelievable. My life changed and there was a huge sense of responsibility. I wasn’t going to let the school down. I worked hard and I worked with everyone.

“What really touches my heart is the innocence of these children. They accept you without question. They received me with warmth and love and allowed me to lead them and I had to return their love. After all these years what I will miss the most are the children,” he says.

He has taught up to the third generation of family members at the school. Gerry believes what attracts people to the school is the collaboration between the pupils, teachers and parents. 

“That has worked very well for us. I don’t want to measure my achievement through what I have done, but by the growth of my colleagues. I know I leave the school in good hands. I had great staff members. They allowed me to lead them. They trusted me and they could read my heart, so they will be able to take the school to greater heights and I wish them well,” Gerry says.
He decided to leave at the end of October to make sure that he finished the syllabus with his Grade 7 pupils.
Gerry has been described as the epitome of love and warmth.
One of the pupils, Saska Michaelson, a Grade 6 pupil whose grandmother also went to the school, says she will miss him.

“I will always remember and miss how he stood at the gate and hugged me as we walked into the school gate. When I came to the school I didn’t know how to spell but now I can spell perfectly through his help,” she says.

Deputy principal Nadia Phillips says Gerry is a symbol of an eagle.
“He flies up above the sky, and with his leadership we were able to go to greater heights. We are really grateful for his service; he has taught us a lot. He led by example, empowered his staff by showing leadership and that’s a sign of a good leader. We will miss him mostly because of his courage, which is larger than life,” says Phillips.
Gerry will be moving to the rural areas where he believes he is needed the most.
“I want to be a great mentor there. I want to impart my knowledge that I have gained over the years and help the people become leaders as well. I will volunteer there and help uplift the rural communities with literacy programmes and other things. I believe we have a difficult role to play and together with the people that I will be working with I want them to review their ways and make better communities.”

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