Top educators bid farewell

2008-01-23 00:00

Last year saw the retirement of nine influential teachers in the Pietermaritzburg area who, between them, have nearly 350 years of experience in education, and who share an equal passion for their work, seeing education as a calling rather than a mere job.

The retirement of four of them, Cilliers Heymanns, headmaster of Alexandra High School; James Delport, headmaster of Carter High School; Mike Nicholson, headmaster of Hilton College; and Ed Schroeder, acting headmaster of Linpark High School was reported in The Witness on December 14 last year.

This time, the focus is placed on Henry Kraft, principal of Alston Primary School; Jürgen Greve, deputy principal at Hermannsburg School; Wal Bornheimer, acting principal at Newton High School; Chris Lombaard, deputy principal at Newton High School; and Yvonne Poole, who had been deputy principal at St Nicholas Diocesan School for 12 years before her retirement five years ago. She subsequently went back to teach full time for five more years.

Henry Kraft, with 38 years of teaching experience, retired at the end of last year after having been on the staff at Alston Primary School in Greyling Street in Pietermaritzburg for 21 years, serving as headmaster for the past 15 years. He said that there were several highlights during his time at the school, in particular being headmaster when the school celebrated its centenary in 2003.

He said that years ago the school took the lead in admitting more children from previously disadvantaged backgrounds than the prescribed limit of five and nowadays they make up the majority of pupils at the school.

“I found it exhilarating teaching them. Children are children, and they have a thirst for knowledge and education.”

Kraft said he felt that it was time to hand over to a new person with innovative ideas to take the school forward. He said, however, that he would still like to be involved in teaching, as his first love is the classroom.

Kraft served on the governing body of Carter High School for two years. During his career he also taught at the Little Flowers School in Ixopo, Bosmont First Primary School in Johannesburg, several schools in northern KwaZulu-Natal, Eastwood Secondary School and Haythorne Secondary School in Woodlands.

Last year, Hermannsburg School (which celebrated its 150th jubilee in 2006) said a fond farewell to its deputy headmaster for the past 19 years, Jürgen Greve, who had served for 41 years in education.

His first teaching post was at Ladysmith High School where he taught for two years before accepting a post at his alma mater where he was on the staff for 39 years. He taught biology and his colleagues described him as a perfectionist with the interest of each pupil at heart.

Greve said that one of his biggest challenges was to increase the pupil numbers at the school. “Although the school is steeped in German traditions and culture, many people don’t know or realise that the medium of instruction is English. The academic record of the school is sound, and over the past few years there has been a steady increase in pupil numbers.”

Greve was in charge of the school’s Nature Club and instrumental in the school winning the National Wessa (Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa) Enviro Quiz 10 out of the 14 times that the school entered the competition.

Greve served on the biology examiners’ board for 31 years and still assists with the IEB (Independent Examinations Board) matric marking.

As a hobby, he started an indigenous nursery, which he intends to carry on. In addition, he will assist in managing a grassland reserve belonging to the Hermannsburg School Trust and on which grass aloes, Hilton daisies and other endangered plant species can be found.

Wal Bornheimer said that her teaching career, which spanned 39 years, was very rewarding. She said that the 15 years she spent as senior deputy and acting principal at Newton High School were a wonderful challenge, because it was more of a management post where one of her challenges was being in charge of all the technical centres at the school. She was awarded the Regional Teachers’ Award for Excellence in School Leadership in 2000.

“Newton High is one of only five pre-vocational schools in KwaZulu-Natal for children with barriers to learning. The children are all referred to the school and they often arrive in a very negative frame of mind. It is very rewarding to see them blossom and grow as they learn practical skills that enable them to find jobs.”

Bornheimer previously taught mathematics at Russell High and at Wartburg-Kirchdorff School for 22 years.

She said her involvement in school athletics, which earned her South African School Colours in Athletics, was a highlight for her. “One gets to know the children in a different milieu and that is very rewarding.”

Bornheimer has been co-opted on to the governing body at Newton High, but is looking forward to having time to pursue her special interest in the painting of oil seascapes.

The deputy principal from Newton High School, Chris Lombaard, retired in October last year after having been at the school for 17 years. Lombaard spent 40 years in education and taught at Newcastle High School, Wonderboom High School in Pretoria and Vryheid High School where he was acting deputy principal as well.

He had taught biology and science at mainstream schools and originally found it a challenge to adapt to teaching children with learning disabilities.

“However, once you realise what their needs are, then teaching them becomes a rewarding experience,” he said.

Two highlights of his career were when he organised the centenary celebrations at Newcastle High School and at Vryheid High School respectively. He was also responsible for erecting the pavilion at Newcastle High.

Two years prior to his retirement, he became a registered architectural draughtsman in which capacity he now works full time.

One of the founding members of St Nicholas Diocesan School, Yvonne Poole, retired last year after spending 17 years at the school teaching mostly Grade 3s. She was acting principal for six months during her time at the school. She taught at Highbury and Wykeham at the start of her career but left when she married and had children.

“Once my children went to school, I taught part-time at St John’s Diocesan School for Girls, Epworth, Wykeham and at the Loop Street Convent where I coached hockey.

“The Diocese bought the school from The Wykeham Collegiate when they relocated. Starting St Nicholas Diocesan School was an enormous but rewarding challenge and I am proud to have been part of that process.

“We had a huge influx of children from previously disadvantaged schools when we opened in 1990, and teaching them has been a worthwhile and rewarding experience — they are very keen and enthusiastic.”

Poole has not completely cut her ties with the school and will continue to assist whenever they need her with reading age assessments. Other than that, she is looking forward to spending time with her children and grandchildren and to playing bridge with her friends.

There were several concerns shared by some of the retirees about the success of outcomes-based education. They referred in particular to a lack of sufficiently trained teachers, especially in government schools, where the teacher to pupil ratio often makes the implementation of this education system problematic. The assessment system of outcomes-based education also generates a mass of administrative work that took their time away from meaningful teaching.

Several also felt that the Education Department did not give them sufficient support, making their task as teachers that much more difficult, especially in meeting staffing requirements. Many saw the instilling of a code of discipline at schools as a huge challenge and an aspect that needs careful consideration and support from the Education Department.

Some said that the actions of some members of the teachers’ unions during the strike last year had a negative impact and expressed the hope that it would never again be necessary for teachers to resort to industrial action.

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