School’s 141st year: Former principal inspires learners

“THERE is a saying that old teachers never die; they simply lose their class.”

This is according to Natalie Stear, the guest speaker at Riebeek College Girls’ High School Founder’s Day which was held recently in Uitenhage.

“Now that we’re living in an age of spreading social media via facebook, twitter, Instagram and so many apps coming into their own, we have wonderful opportunities of staying in touch with each other. So we teachers haven‘t lost our class after all!” said Stear.

Stear joined Riebeek when the school was 113 years old. She said the interesting thing about making a difference inlife is that anyone can manage it - young or old; healthy or sick; brilliant or average; rich or poor; educated or uneducated.

“Anyone can be part of a life that matters. When a good friend of mine had only a few more days to live she asked me whether I thought she had made a difference in the lives of others.

“She had been a school principal herself and to this day people tell me stories about what she had meant to them. That is what we all desire, to leave some kind of legacy that someone lives a better life because of us.

“Perhaps a passing word has helped someone, perhaps we will never know how significant that word had been. The most important thing to remember is that we shouldn’t seek for recognition.

“We should all desire to be part of a life that matters. It doesn’t take any particular skill, all it needs is caring and kindness.

“As Mother Theresa said, ‘Do not wait for leaders. Do it alone, person to person’. Awaken the greatness within. Don’t expect thanks or recognition. You may become the reason for someone else’s greatness. Perhaps you’ll never know,” said Stear.

  • Natalie Stear first joined the nursing profession, becoming a registered medical and surgical nurse, before she made a major career change earning her Master’s degree in Education at Rhodes University (cum laude). She gained recognition in the teaching profession and education in South Africa when she served as President of the South African Teachers’ Association and was instrumental in the formation of the National Union of Educators, now NAPTOSA.

For this she was honoured with a Life Associate Award. During the time of the transition in education in SA she served on several committees and was honoured by SACE (South African Council for Education) by being selected among the top 100 educators to be registered by the Council.

During her 13 years’ tenure as Principal of Riebeek College, the school was listed for three consecutive years in the Sunday Times top 100 schools in SA and it was the first state school in SA to vote in favour of opening to all races. Also during this time, every matriculant passed. Natalie Stear retired as a school principal at the end of the year 2000.

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