World Teachers’ Day – the mother of all careers!

On World Teachers’ Day, Maria Kgotlele Malaza from the Ekurhuleni South District talks about her career as an educator.

At the 21st National Teaching Awards in Ekurhuleni today, President Ramaphosa praised outstanding educators who have remained committed to their noble craft and produced extraordinary outcomes under challenging circumstances. At JumpStart, we are blessed with remarkable partners who support, encourage and facilitate progress for our youth tutors. Many fabulous teachers – like Barbara Bogogolela, Nondomisa Macala, Funeka Phakada and Adelina Msimango – go out of their way to advise, mentor and champion young people aiming to become qualified educators in their own right. These teachers are supported by a team of colleagues at the Department of Basic Education, Ekurhuleni South District, who lead and guide mathematics learning in the foundation phase on a daily basis.

On World Teachers’ Day Maria Kgotlele Malaza, a committed partner of JumpStart, shared her thoughts on “the mother of all careers”. Ms Malaza is the SES for Mathematics in the Foundation Phase and her support has been integral to the success of JumpStart’s NumberSense Programme, currently operating in 25 schools in the district. A champion of our youth tutors, she shared memories and tips on her career as an educator. “I deeply believe in the power of education to open doors for people,” she said.

When did you realise your calling to become an educator? 

Actually… a career in education never crossed my mind! Fortunately, I enjoyed learning as a child and luckily, I was always at the top of the class. In my uneducated family, I realised early that going to school was not optional. It was essential! Despite having no one to encourage and motivate me, I knew I was passionate about going to school, and passed Grade 12 with a university exemption.

In my experience, God sends angels across our paths. The first angel was my aunt, a teacher in a rural area. I always loved the blue suit she wore and after she passed on, I inherited that suit! For some reason, when I applied for my ID, I changed my name to Kgotlele, my aunt’s name. I guess my love for teaching started there!

The second angel in my teaching journey was my sister’s boyfriend, who was already attending College when I finished school. With no plan for university and no money to fund my schooling he applied on my behalf. Imagine my surprise one day, collecting the mail when I found a letter addressed to me, directing me to write an aptitude test at Daveyton College. A few days later I was accepted to study as a Foundation Phase teacher. That’s where my career started as a teacher.

What are your best school memories?

I have four distinct memories from my school days where the motto I held onto was: “Be the best.” On one occasion my highly intelligent friend (who always came first) was sent to our class to recite a poem. After that, I stood up and was able to recite it too! Then there was my first Maths test in Standard 4, with the remarks “80/100 Well done! Neat work.” The feeling of achievement was great! I also recall getting my Grade 12 result that enabled me to be accepted at Daveyton College of Education. Lastly, being called on stage as the best achiever in Junior Phase with three distinctions was a proud and happy day!

What has your teaching journey been, and where do you see your career going? 

After graduating from college, I became a teacher. Then I became a departmental head, and acting principal. From there I became a cluster leader which led to the post I’m currently in as the Senior Education Specialist for Foundation Phase Mathematics. This period has  included a stint as Acting Deputy Chief Specialist. My personal vision entails becoming a Principal, then a Cluster Leader and perhaps even going on to become a Chief Education Specialist, however, my ultimate goal is to open my own school from Grade R–12 with a skill development centre.  

What advice and encouragement can you offer to education students?

Teaching is one of the most fulfilling and stable professions in the world. Your first love must be your students before anything else, and you must cherish the desire to see them achieving their very best. Don’t enter a career in education for the money. Enter this profession if you care about bringing a difference to each learner that crosses your path in the classroom.

Aim to get specific about where your passion lies. Is it Primary or Secondary school? Drill deeper… which phase interests you most?  Foundation, Intermediate or Senior Phase? Is it Senior or FET? Reflect on the subjects enjoyed or excelled in to choose your own study path. JumpStart tutors teaching Mathematics have an advantage! Mathematics is a scarce skill. If I could give you one tip, it would be to start your teaching journey there! Mathematics  will take you places and your skills will always be in demand.

Teachers must be lifelong students. Whether it’s tertiary education, in-service training, or workshops, you must keep up with new developments and techniques. Never stop learning!

How do JumpStart tutors in the Ekurhuleni School District make a difference?

These young people really impress me with their passion, dedication, and willingness. They know exactly why they are in the Mathematics classrooms and always desire to assist children with learning barriers. They make time to support them and they prefer individual teaching as they can move according to the learner’s individual pace.

As Ekurhuleni South District we appreciate the support we get from JumpStart and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. We see its impact with the EGMA assessments, pre- and post-assessments. The assessment always shows remarkable performance improvement. We also value our learners’ exposure to working on the tablets JumpStart provides, and gaining these particular technical skills.

Last tips for teachers and tutors?

1) Don’t be afraid of the Gazette! Keep applying for posts that advance your career.
2) Study while you are still young. In whatever you do, never give up. Push yourself so that you can achieve your goals. As a teacher, you will be a role model to many learners.
3) Your main task is to ensure that your learners remember you as one of their excellent teachers. By your conduct, ensure that they aspire to be like you when they grow up.
4) Remember, being a teacher is a calling. Don’t ever underestimate it. Teaching is definitely the mother of all careers. I wish you all the best in your life journey.

Partner with us

JumpStart welcomes partners who are keen to support young South Africans who wish to follow in the footsteps of  Ms Malaza. Your support for our tutors qualifies you for a SARS Section 18(a) certificate. Please email Betty Oliphant for further information.

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