The National Teaching Awards ((NTAs) is one of the ways in which the Department of Basic Education (DBE) acknowledges the extraordinary efforts made by excellent teachers, often in very difficult conditions.
The prestigious annual event is held to honour and celebrate the country’s teaching profession. This years’ NTAs will take place on the 20th of October as a way to celebrate the importance of South Africa’s teachers and educators and will recognise those who are showing true excellence in this profession.
Such teachers provide for better futures for learners, because the lack of quality education is a major factor behind many social, political, economic and health challenges faced by the world today; as well as contributing to poverty, prejudice and conflict.
The concept of appreciating and recognising teachers has gained world-wide prominence and as a result South African teachers are encouraged to participate and shine on the global stage.
Being a teacher in South Africa is full of challenges and blessings. It is a profession which is critical to the development of many of South Africa’s younger generations and a profession which is fraught with trials.
The finding from the Teaching and Learning International (TALIS) research in 2019 highlighted that SA teachers operate in a multicultural or multilingual setting which poses a challenge to the teaching environment On average in South Africa, 62% of teachers work in a classroom with at least 10% of students whose first language is different from the language of instruction.
A teacher is also a remedial expert, a therapist, an after-hours caretaker, a mother/father, a nurse, a during-hours caretaker, a peacemaker, a disciplinarian, an organiser and most importantly: a superhero.
Dr Mariette Wheeler, a Life Sciences and Marine Sciences school teacher at the Protea Heights Academy, Brackenfell, Western Cape, was announced as the best teacher for the year 2021.
Helping learners to grasp difficult concepts, witnessing their “aha” moments and celebrating them, and nurturing a love for science within the classroom is what motivates and inspires Dr Mariëtte Wheeler – the recipient of South Africa’s 2021 National Best Teacher Award. With this approach to her craft and to her learners, she hopes to unleash troops of young, inquiring and solutions-driven minds into the world.
Wheeler was hailed for her work in transforming the learning experience of pupils through science-related activities, project-based learning, debating, technology assisted learning and community projects while also ensuring teachers stay engaged during online classes.
As the world evolves and becomes technologically savvy, it is reasonable to expect that the demand for high-level skills will increase over time and that children will need to be adequately skilled to apply for such positions. The future of the education system thus needs to decrease the amount of students who leave schools and struggle to find employment.