12 December 2016 – Although Saints’ junior school teacher Mizanne Connan spent only three years at Saint Andrew’s, she made a significant impact at the school, which, in turn, made its mark on her.
During her time at Saint Andrew’s she became a familiar, very active presence at the many events held by the junior school, often sharing her experiences and the joy she gained from them on Facebook, and often being a driver of those happenings. She exhibited incredible energy.
In Mizanne Connan’s classes, the boys simply had to be an active part of a happy group.
Her teaching career began in Cape Town and moving from a large co-ed school there to a much smaller all-boys school in Bloemfontein was a challenge, she admitted recently: “It was difficult in the beginning because my whole family is in Cape Town. However, when you get married your husband [who was in Bloemfontein at the time] becomes your family. Not long after being at Saints, the boys became our family. I have absolutely loved being here for the last three years.”
Whereas her previous school, Edgemead, had six classes per grade, Saint Andrew’s had only two. That meant there were some differences, which Mizanne loved: “You work more independently. Although you do work with your colleague, you are left to your own devices, which inspires a lot of creativity. You are able to explore your talents more in the subjects.”
“You have that family feeling”
Being at a smaller school that also has hostels was a good thing, she added: “You have that family feeling because you have the boys who are living here. That was something to get used to, also more contact with parents and being friendlier with parents.”
Changing from a co-ed to an all-boys environment was something else that she enjoyed, Mizanne said.
“I loved teaching only boys, because boys are energetic and competitive and I enjoy bringing the competitive element into the classroom. You have groups and they can earn points and win certificates and stickers and so on. It does work with girls, but the boys go all out and they have their team names. You can have a lot of fun with them.
“On camp, you don’t have the girls that are scared to do things. The boys just go and play in the mud and run around. They are not scared to pick up insects. I really enjoyed that.”
Questioned about her motivation in playing such an active role in every facet of the school, she answered: “Fortunately, my whole life I have enjoyed getting fully involved. In school, I was like that too. I feel that if you are going to be somewhere you need to find everything to enrich yourself and to enrich others around you. I hope that I have been able to achieve that here.”
Interact and the various causes it supported brought Mizanne Connan great joy.
In her first year at Saints, Mizanne kept a low profile while she found her feet, but after the departure of Jenny de Gouveia she was approached by Lucille Cooper to work with the Junior Interact Club. That was a very positive change.
“I absolutely loved it. I was so excited because I’ve always been interested in New Beginnings [dog rescue] especially. I had been supporting New Beginnings since I came to Bloemfontein because we adopted our first dog before I even started here!
“Then, I was able to be involved in the other projects, such as the Neonatal Ward, such as book collections, water collections, and then being able to, after finding my feet in the first six months of this year, run projects myself, such as the Shavathon and collecting water for drought-stricken areas.
“Those types of projects where I could find out what was needed and just go with it and get the boys involved and let them do presentations [were wonderful].
“I don’t like speaking in front of everyone in Chapel, so I would ask the boys to come to my class and we would practice the slide shows. It also gave them different skills at school besides academics: learning how to speak in front of other people, voice projection, a bit of drama, because sometimes they put on little skits and plays.”
The Spread the Love Sandwich Challenge
Her most significant contribution towards others, some would say, was the Spread the Love Sandwich Challenge.
Mizanne explained: “The Sandwich Challenge was interesting. Mr Thomas came to the staff room and said he would like some ideas for Mandela Day. At first, it was that each grade should do their own project. Then I suggested that we take something that exists and make it huge, and get everybody involved, because the community is then involved and it is something that shows everyone what kind of school we are.
“It makes an impact when you have all these boys working together, and staff and parents and grandparents. Even businesses joined in. It was a small idea, but it was a massive amount of planning. Mr Thomas was incredible in sourcing media coverage and sponsorships. It just took off.
“We had the most amazing feeling of working together. It was also a competitive thing, typical of me, saying we were going to time it and it has to be within 60 minutes, even though it is supposed to be 67. But we wanted to see if we could break the Guinness World record. Unfortunately, it was too expensive to get an official to make the record official. But it was absolutely fantastic. The boys loved it.”
The Saints Spread the Love Sandwich Challenge was Mizanne Connan’s idea. Here she is preparing for the big event.
Being involved in Interact, besides benefitting others, really helps the boys, Mizanne said: “I see that it gives them confidence. Some of those boys might not shine in class, be academically strong or strong in sport, but they’re able to make a difference in people’s lives and a difference in the lives of animals.
“They can even see the difference they can make when they bring teachers a card and a flower on Teachers’ Day. I see confidence and I see that the boys learn to take responsibility. They learn how to be charitable and giving and empathetic.”
With her husband employed by a Welkom-based company, during her time at Saint Andrew’s she withstood a number of approaches from schools in that area, but spending time apart and a too-good-to-refuse offer finally persuaded Mizanne to make the move from Saints.
“I am going to miss many things”
“I am going to miss many things. I am really going to miss my colleagues. I have made some very good friends on the staff,” she said.
“For the last six months, I have worked with Dunn House. I am going to miss my boys and the interaction that I could have with them on a different level, being able to go and check up on them and make sure they are not having any bad dreams. Being able to spend the weekends with them, taking them walking in the nature reserve.
“I am going to miss the all-boys class because Saint Dominic’s is co-ed. I have done co-ed, but it will be a new challenge doing it at a school that has something like the Saints’ Chapel, which was new to me.
“I am going to miss Interact. I think it will be one of the things that I miss the most because I absolutely loved to be involved and going on the outings and helping to arrange things with Miss Cooper.”