A passionate Pietermaritzburg schoolteacher has bagged a provincial award for excellence.Thandeka Sibiya, an English teacher at Sobantu High School, received the Excellence in Secondary School Teaching award in the National Teaching Awards, provincial level, as a reward for her relentless zeal for education.The ambitious Sibiya now has the national crown in her sights. She is heading to Gauteng in January to represent the province in the national stage, where she will be competing with nine other teachers from across the country, who came top in their respective provinces in the same category for which she received her award.“When I first entered my portfolio I did not know how far I would get due to previous disappointments but things turned around for me this year. “I am excited about the accolade. It came to me as a thrilling shock,” she said. “I could not believe it because there were other outstanding teachers at the regional finals who I competed against. But after all, I am happy and proud,” she said.Prior to winning this award, Sibiya was already due to travel to America next year under the auspices of the Teaching Excellence and Achievement Programme (TEA), an American programme aimed at equipping teachers across the world. The programme covers outstanding secondary school teachers in English, social studies, mathematics, science, and special education. It provides unique opportunities to develop greater expertise in their subjects, enhance their teaching skills and increase their knowledge about the United States.Chosen teachers travel to the United States for a six-week academic programme at a U.S. university graduate school.The course includes intensive training in teaching methods, lesson planning, teaching strategies, teacher leadership, and the use of instructional technology.Sibiya told The Witness the secret to success lies in developing a culture of research.“It is possible for other teachers to make it by adopting a culture of researching more about the topics in their curriculum,” said Sibiya.She says teaching is not a career that will result in wealth. The rewards are reaped through the success of the pupils.She said it is gratifying to see one’s pupils “beating the odds” when competing with other pupils from prestigious schools.Sibiya and two groups of pupils from her school travelled to Dubai earlier this year after their “sustainable living” project was chosen to represent the country.They subsequently jetted off to Sweden for a heritage, local history, and social cohesion project.They also travelled across the country representing the province in various research and oral school projects.The criteria for The Excellence in Secondary School Teaching award category of the National Teaching Awards includes:• Contributing to the personal development of pupils by communicating effectively with them about their performance and progress• Developing learners who will act in the interest of society, and whose values will be based on respect for democracy, equality, human dignity and social justice, as promoted in the constitution.• Providing guidance and support to pupils using the curriculum for career and life choices.This year Sibiya and several pupils from Sobantu High school had travelled overseas on an educational excursion where they represented the country.