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An educator at heart | Article from Getit Magazine

“I admire the people I work with and know in the education sector. These people inspire me with their true passion for education and their willingness to go the extra mile. I draw inspiration from them, and they inspire me to think creatively.” 

Debbie van Wyk is the principal at Olive Ridge School in Bloemfontein and is married to her high school sweetheart. They have been together for 21 years and married for 13 years, with two boys and they are expecting their third baby.

She grew up in Lichtenburg in the North West.  “I studied at the North-West University (NWU) for the first two years and then transferred to Kovsies in 2007, where I completed my studies in 2015.  So, I guess I can now proudly and officially say that I am from Bloemfontein,” she says.

Although being an educator was not part of her plan, she says that she comes from a family of educators, “so I guess to end up in education has always been my destiny.”

Debbie wanted to be a journalist or psychologist. “I studied Psychology and completed a master’s degree with a strong focus on the development of reading and spelling.  By this time, I had also done the post-graduate certificate in Education and started working as an assistant teacher at the Academy of Excellence, teaching English to Grade 4 to 10.  I worked my way up from being an assistant teacher to becoming the HOD of the Foundation Phase,” she explains.

When asked how she got into reading therapy and teaching, she said she taught languages for 10 years. “I have done an internship in reading therapy and started working with 15 learners. In 12 weeks, their report marks in all subjects increased with an average of between 3% and 10%.  At Olive Ridge School, the teachers in the Foundation Phase use methods that work to teach reading correctly,” she says.

Debbie adds that teaching students to read and write through a multifaceted approach is effective. “The educator is the biggest resource in the process of learning to read and write and when using 21st-century classrooms to its full capacity, contributes to the development of reading and writing.  The students are interested and involved in their own learning because the educational environment excites them.  Reading and writing are not isolated construct. This should be the mission of everyone who is actively participating in the development of reading and writing in the younger grades.”

Having kids has always been part of Debbie’s plan – “a lot of them,” she says. Having a third one on the way feels like a dream for her. “Extremely excited is an understatement.”

On the topic of the bun in the oven, she says she cannot spill the beans yet. “My husband and I have this tradition where we always wait until the birth to find out the gender of the baby. The suspense is unreal, but we are so enjoying everyone’s guesses and old-wives-tales about what the gender is going to be.”

Debbie believes that balancing mom-life and work-life is an easy task if you plan carefully, stay organised and focused. She does, however, admit that this is easier said than done. “Some days the apple cart overturns and the apples roll out in four different directions. However, at the end of days like those, we are thankful that we can try again and try to do better the next day.”

The 30 minutes between swimming lessons to stock up on dinner goodies for later; the 20 minutes on her way to work singing to songs in her car like a boss; or a quick-stop for a takeaway coffee – that’s how she takes time for herself, and this makes her totally happy.

“Down-time to me means visiting friends and family over the weekends. My husband enjoys taking the boys on hunting trips and then we take their motorbikes along. I enjoy watching them enjoying themselves and love to catch up on some good conversation.”

Article from Getit Magazine

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