7 February 2017 – New Saint Andrew’s junior school teacher Marelise van Niekerk’s first job was in the corporate sector, but the regimented life of working for a major corporation weighed heavily on her shoulders. Then she discovered teaching through helping one of her brothers with his work. It was what she wanted to do.
However, moving into teaching was not a simple matter. When she was 20 and living in Empangeni, she was approached by a school in KwaZulu-Natal to teach art.
“He said I shouldn’t be a teacher!”
“I had the qualifications to be an art teacher, but it never happened because my step-dad was a teacher and he said I shouldn’t be a teacher! It stuck in my head for a while. But then I moved to a bank for my first job.”
“It was really challenging. It’s like a horse with blinkers. You aren’t allowed to look anywhere. You have to follow procedure exactly. You are not allowed to think outside of the box. There is no creativity. I didn’t like that at all. That job didn’t last long!”
Saints’ junior school teacher Marelise van Niekerk believes the Chapel plays a vital role in the life of the boys of Saint Andrew’s
Marelise then moved to Bloemfontein and signed up for a teaching degree at the University of the Free State. No matter what her step-father’s thoughts on the matter were, she had decided she would become a teacher. Where that would be, she had no idea.
“Honestly, I left it in God’s hands. I always knew that someday there was something big planned for me,” she said.
“I was motivated to make a difference and I wanted to be either at a poor school or at a big school where I could use my resources and make a difference in someone’s life.
Then fortune smiled on Marelise. She learnt by chance about a post that was about to become available at Saint Andrew’s.
“One day, I had decided not to go and study at the university, but I was sitting at home working when a friend asked me how my studies were going. He then told me about the post at Saints. I didn’t have to think twice about applying for the job at Saint Andrew’s. I felt good about it and I knew this is where I belong,” she smiled.
“I knew a little about the school. I knew it was a school that has the right values and the proper way of doing things. I knew it was a school that looks after the boys and looks after the staff as well.
“The image I saw was proper manners, discipline and the boys treating each other well. My mom always said to me that when she walks into Saint Andrew’s the boys get up and greet her properly. She didn’t experience that at any other school.”
“I feel I fit in perfectly”
Marelise said she feels very comfortable with the size of the school. The staff has also been welcoming and helpful. “I feel I fit in perfectly. It has been easy settling in.”
Teaching, too, has been easy, she added: “The boys are real gentlemen. They greet. They stand up. If I speak in class, they keep quiet. It is not difficult [to teach]. It is not like one would find in other schools.”
Teaching only boys is an enjoyable experience, she continued: “I always said if I become a mom I would want only boys.”
Discussing her teaching style, Marelise said: “I use a mediated teaching style. I will ask the boys to think of an answer. I will push them in a direction to come to their own conclusions through critical thinking.
“Critical thinking is very important, because the boys then learn from themselves and they become men. It is really important at the grade 3 level.”
Something that sets Saint Andrew’s apart from many other schools is the school’s Chapel and its focus on living Christian values. That is something that appeals to her, Marelise said: “I find Chapel to be very important.
“Yes, there are other cultures and religions, but you have to believe in something to have a purpose in life. Especially in a school like this, you believe in God and you believe you can always go to Him for help.
“We have our Chaplain as well. That’s really awesome. The boys can go to him for help. Our faith is always a cornerstone to rely on. I love it!”