DESPATCH Preparatory School is honoured to have one of South Africa’s top Grade R teachers in their midst.At the 20th annual National Teaching Awards which was held two weeks ago at the Soshanguve East Secondary School in Gauteng, Asja-Leah Katia Strydom was announced as the second best Grade R teacher in South Africa. She previously was named the best Grade R teacher at both district and Eastern Cape provincial levels. Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and the Minister in The Presidency Jackson Mthembu, hosted the awards, which is an annual event held by the Department of Basic Education to recognize and celebrate teachers for their dedication and outstanding work, at times under extremely challenging circumstances.“This is an enormous honour to be seen and recognised by your country,” said Asja-Leah Katia Strydom, a Grade R teacher and head of department at Despatch Preparatory School.“It was absolutely amazing seeing the extra effort and how many teachers are going like ten thousand more miles. Children’s lives are genuinely changed by these teachers.“There are teachers devoting their time to run Grade R classes over weekends to assist children. Others have designed apps and programmes interlinking with a curriculum.“The best mathematics teacher in the country pushed herself for three years to get massive sponsorships by literally going from door to door. She did this to get Lego blocks, which she uses to teach high school maths.“What was also inspiring, is language teachers taking their learners into the depth of areas where specific languages are spoken, so that the learners can hear the different dialects. “It must have been very difficult to judge us, because what one school has another hasn’t, but you all have to bring something to your community,” said Strydom.There were nine finalists in each category, representing the different provinces.Madeléne Sachse, principal at Despatch Preparatory School, said, “This is an excellent achievement and a first ever for Despatch Preparatory, where a teacher was awarded the best at provincial level and second best in the country.“We are extremely proud of Asja. She is a ‘go-getter’ and always strives to excel at whatever she does. Weekends and holidays are not there for her to relax. It seems to be the ideal time for her to plan yet another project in making teaching exciting.”Nominees for the National Teaching Awards go through a rigorous selection process by expert panellists who put teaching practice and excellence to the test. Teachers nominated represent the diverse nature of schools in the education sector.According to Strydom, not enough teachers are aware of this competition in which the nominations start June/July.“There is a lot of good getting done by teachers and it doesn’t always get seen or recognised,” said Strydom.