Teacher of the Week

By admin
29 July 2013

Our teacher of the week, Carlyn Oppelt, is responsible for YOU, Huisgenoot and Drum’s Grade 1 life sciences pages, and is also involved in Stellenbosch University’s telematic projects.

Our teacher of the week, Carlyn Oppelt, is responsible for YOU, Huisgenoot and Drum’s Grade 1 life sciences pages and is also involved in Stellenbosch University’s telematic projects.

Name and age

Carlyn Oppelt.  49 – the big 5-0 is looming!

What and where do you teach?

I’ve been a life sciences teacher at New Orleans Secondary in Paarl for the past 28 years.

Why did you choose teaching as a career?

When not all races could have access to universities women were basically limited to three career choices: nursing, teaching or becoming a secretary. Teaching was an obvious choice for me as I’d played teacher-teacher with my two older sisters as a youngster and was “strict” with them if they didn’t know their work. Teaching runs in our family – my dad was a school principal and my grandmother was also a teacher.

What three tips would you give teachers who teach your subject?

  1. Keep up with the latest developments in your subject field by regularly attending refresher courses. Your learners respect you if they see you’re on top of your subject matter. Give learners the same opportunities by exposing them to science expos if you can.
  2. Be the kind of teacher whose enthusiasm rubs off on your colleagues and be a role model for your learners.
  3. Do as many practical activities as possible to keep the subject interesting and stop making excuses about why life sciences can’t be presented in a practical way. Everyone has overfull classrooms and too little apparatus – don’t use this as an excuse. There are so many alternatives and substitute materials you can use as apparatus. Remember, you’re a teacher and your creativity will be put to the test more than ever. Use technology to benefit both you and your learners and show learners a cellphone can be used in a classroom. Take mobile microscopy for instance. If you don’t have enough microscopes in the classroom take a picture from the microscope with your cellphone (yes, it’s possible) and send it to learners’ cellphones. Create an exclusive group on Facebook and WhatsApp where you can help learners with homework when they get stuck. The possibilities are endless. If you simply do the same thing year after year you’ll get stuck in a rut.

What 3 tips would you give recently qualified teachers?

  1. Empower yourself with knowledge. Nothing makes you more uncertain and nervous than a lack of knowledge. Learners see those weaknesses and exploit them. If you’re a recently qualified, young teacher tell learners you’re a teacher but only human and don’t know everything, but that you’re prepared to find answers with them.
  2. A teacher’s work is never done. Make it easier for you to use technology and make your lessons as visually appealing and interesting as possible. A disciplined teacher who’s well prepared hardly ever has problems with discipline in the classroom.
  3. Get involved in subject societies. Get to know teachers in your region who teach the same subject as you and ask for help if need be. Ask experienced teachers for guidance but avoid negative people. Surround yourself with positive people because, remember, “Either you are born NOT to be a teacher, or you are CURSED to be one!”

What is your favourite piece of technology or book for use in the classroom?

As a teacher I don’t want to promote a specific book. Use various books as source material in the classroom. As an assistant presenter of the telematic broadcasts at Stellenbosch University (a project that broadcasts lessons to schools in three provinces) I’m also responsible for compiling material for learners. So technology is important and I believe that schools that don’t invest in data projectors in their labs or have access to the internet will fall behind and deprive their learners of a quality education.

What motivates you?

The fact I can make a difference and do make a difference and! There’s no greater reward than gratitude from learners and parents who stop and thank you when you’ve helped them and their children. If I were to choose a career again, I’d choose teaching. May every dedicated teacher be rewarded with the words, “The artist has disappeared but his/her work lives on.”

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