Gerhard Grundling’s journey to becoming a teacher is an inspiring story and a beacon of hope to anyone wanting to follow their dream. Achieving his goal means that this Grade 6 teacher, at Gamtoos Valley Primary in Patensie, Eastern Cape, can now inspire other young people to fulfil their potential and find their own passage through life.
Gerhard is one of seven local school reading assistants who took up the opportunity to study teaching with the assistance of the Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm’s education bursary programme, put in place specifically for these reading assistants. The bursaries are education focused, designed to foster an interest in the teaching occupation whilst helping to address the national shortage of quality educational practitioners.
Having developed a passion for teaching whilst working with children at the horse riding school, Gerhard began studying towards a teaching diploma at a local university after matriculating, but had to transfer to distance learning due to financial constraint. “After moving back home and starting my UNISA studies, I became a reading assistant which gave me an opportunity to learn so much about teaching, in a practical way, while earning some extra money to go towards my studies.”
Even with this income, finances were very short, but it never deterred him. “Becoming a teacher was my absolute dream and I knew that I would do whatever it took to finish my qualification. When I heard that I would receive a bursary to complete my studies, it was such a huge relief for me and I was beyond excited.”
After five years of studying, Gerhard is now a Grade 6 teacher at Gamtoos Vallei Primary. He gets to teach some of the children that he used to help as a reading assistant when they were in the foundation phase. This has been a great advantage for him to better understand each child and address specific learning challenges head-on. He is also aware that these learners, who come from diverse backgrounds and home environments are best approached with kindness and tolerance.
“I know their backgrounds and their struggles, which has helped me to adapt my approach so that I can help them continue to grow and learn better. I also know that for some children, I am the only person who compliments or encourages them, so I make an extra effort to offer support and enrich their lives. This makes a big difference personally and in their school work improves along with their confidence – this is a wonderful feeling,” added Gerhard.
Supporting the belief that an emotionally safe and supporting learning environment, where children feel valued, respected, and connected to and engaged in learning, means that Gerhard sees this role as more than just a teacher. He works at making school a safe place for each of his learners. “I truly do my best to make the classroom a safe place for each child, no matter what their background is or what they are facing. I believe that every child needs to feel safe in a classroom in order to learn and reach their full potential,” concludes Gerhard.
Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm’s Foundation Phase Reading Coaches Support Programme originated in 2016. The programme, which includes fourteen reading coaches, continues to function in twelve primary schools situated Hankey, Patensie, Jeffreys Bay and Humansdorp. The Programme incorporates a number of elements, namely employment opportunities, training and resources. In addition to this, schools will receive a donation of books.