Meet the Stellenbosch teacher who creates a song and dance in his classroom to help his students to learn

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Stellenbosch teacher Florance Vermeulen placed second in South Africa for using fun dance and music to his lessons to help inspire his learners. (PHOTO: Instagram/fmav_floreer_)
Stellenbosch teacher Florance Vermeulen placed second in South Africa for using fun dance and music to his lessons to help inspire his learners. (PHOTO: Instagram/fmav_floreer_)

He’s not your regular teacher. When you enter his classroom, you will most likely start with a fun dance and music routine before getting stuck into the lesson. 

Thanks to his special teaching technique, Florance Vermeulen from Kylemore in Stellenbosch has made quite a name for himself. 

Earlier this year the 32-year-old teacher was nominated as one of 15 finalists in Solidarity’s Teacher of the Year competition in the high school category and won second place for his unique and quirky style.

Florance says the nomination and award were humbling because it meant that he was being recognised for all the hard work that he and all the other teachers are doing.

“Teaching is a noble profession but the challenges that we [teachers] face are so overwhelming you feel like giving up. But this award and the fact that I was nominated made me realise my journey in education is far from over,” he tells YOU. 

Florance first studied drama and says the teaching bug only bit after graduation. 

“I got employed at the Africa Centre for HIV/Aids Management at Stellenbosch University where I was the project coordinator for community interactions. This is where I got involved in the educational theatre programme and I was introduced to all the schools and I fell in love with teaching. I knew I needed to get into a classroom and teach,” he says.

He went on to graduate from Stadio School of Education, doing his postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE).

Florance started his new career in 2018, teaching creative arts at a primary school before moving to a high school. He first taught at Bishop Lavis High School in Cape Town before going to Lückhoff Secondary School in Stellenbosch, where he currently teaches business studies and creative arts.  

Florance with an award for his community work, som
Florance with the award he won for his community work, something he's also very passionate about. (PHOTO: Instagram/fmav_floreer_)

As soon as Florance stepped into the classroom he asked himself what he could do to improve the learning experience for kids. And with drama and dance being his passion, he knew exactly how to inject fun into his lessons. 

He would ask learners to line up outside the classroom and recite a mantra before entering the class where they did a motivational dance.

Florance, who also completed an advanced diploma in professional acting for camera and a BCom degree in management marketing, says he introduced these routines to change learners' moods and mindsets.

He says he was aware that some of them were living in difficult circumstances and he felt he needed to do something to clear their minds so they could absorb information.

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“So, I use some quirky moves to music that interests them, and I will ask them to teach me moves as well. That would be for about 10 minutes, and it grew from there. It really sets the tone for the lesson and gets them moving in a positive direction,” he says.

“Also, this was way before TikTok came in, so it’s not sensational kind of movement. With the songs I use in my class and the movement it's therapeutic to them, so it’s more music therapy in a sense instead of us just doing the latest trends,” he adds. 

The teacher admits there was some apprehension from learners in the beginning, but they got into it soon enough.

“It didn’t take long to build their trust because with children they can feel the energy from people. They know my energy is infectious and so they couldn’t resist. No one is forced into it, but I can see that the students want to be a part of it,” he says. 

He says the aim of his technique was to bridge the gap between the learning material and the learner, using dance and music.

“Somehow the learners connected more, and their skills started to improve. It's more than just teaching the content but bringing the content to their real world. And now if I don’t play music in class, they are worried something is wrong,” Florance says. 

More than that he wants kids to remember how he made them feel which is why he has every intention to continue using this fun technique in all his classrooms.

“If I change a child, I change a household; if I change a household, I change a community and it is a ripple effect. Like one of my favourite quotes says:  ‘I'm not saying I will change the world, but I will spark the brains that will'.”

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