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Teacher retires after four decades

IN 45 years of teaching, passionate teacher Kerry Smith (65) has taught three generations to count, read and write – from Grade 1 to Grade 7.

Now, after retiring at the end of January this year, she still has no intention of lessening her commitment to educating learners. It is her calling and passion.

But first, she is going to travel.

After obtaining her HDE at Edgewood Teacher’s Training College in Pinetown – a decision her father made for her after she completed matric at the young age of 16 in 1971 – Smith started teaching at Warner Beach Primary School in Durban in 1975.

Fifteen years later, she joined the formidable team at Jeffreys Bay Primary School where she taught a combined class of Grade 3 and Grade 4 learners for one term as a relief teacher.

She then volunteered to work in the school library, before accepting a position at Herbert Hurd Primary School in Port Elizabeth for a short stint.

After three terms at Herbert Hurd, Smith once again joined Jeffreys Bay Primary School as a Grade 7 English teacher and librarian.

In the following years she taught different grades up to 2006, when she finally got a departmental position at the school – 14 years after joining the school as a temporary teacher.

In 2010 Smith was promoted to Head of Department – taking the school’s academics from strength to strength until her recent retirement.

Outside the set school curriculum, she initiated school surfing – the school supplied the boards and wetsuits to the learners.

“Helen Shelver and I used to walk down to the beach with about 25 to 30 young surfers,” says Smith.

“With only an hour for sport in the school day, it was very stressful to get the learners to walk down to the beach – each one carrying a surfboard – surf and get back to the school in time.”

Then Louis Prins ‘saved’ them and drove them to the beach and back with the school bus.

In later years, Smith started coaching swimming at school – producing many top swimmers.

Reflecting on her teaching career, Smith, who believes that as a teacher she played an important role in shaping each learner’s attitude towards learning and sport, says, “I have taught so many learners. I have taught some of the parents of the learners who are at the school now.

“The best part: seeing the spark when a learner ‘gets it’. On the flip side, I did not enjoy all the administration work, but I did it to the best of my abilities, as I am not afraid of hard work.”

According to Smith, who has worked with four principals, a lot has changed since she first joined the school in 1990 – boasting fewer than 100 learners and 15 staff members.

There were no separate classes for Afrikaans and English learners and they combined classes for the English learners because there were fewer English learners.

“As the school grew and learners increased, sufficient classrooms became a problem,” says Smith. “Due to limited space, I had to teach in the small room under the Newton Hall, which was quite an experience. Every time there was a function or meeting, we could hear the myriad of footsteps above our heads.

“I even taught in the school library.”

Today the school boasts over 800 learners, separate classes for Afrikaans and English learners, and 45 staff members.

During her retirement she wants to travel – starting off by visiting Australia and New Zealand. She also intends to spend more time with her family.

If the circumstances arise, she may consider relief teaching during her travels or even when she is back home in Jeffreys Bay.

“Once a teacher, always a teacher,” Smith says.

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