Work in Progress - Teachers who have changed my life

Karabo Maya graduated from St James Johannesburg with distinction last December. She wrote this tribute to her teachers, which has been published in a book about great South African teachers put together by a distinguished educationalist.

“I have two teachers who have changed my life and have made me who I am today. These two teachers are my Music teacher and my English teacher.

First, I will tell you about my Music teacher, Mr Kieswetter, who has worked at St James since the beginning of 2010. He has changed all our lives by being the best Music teacher there is. He teaches me piano and violin, and he is our choir conductor. Last month he put together an amazing choir festival called the Sacred Music Festival which was held at St Margaret’s, a beautiful old church. The schools that attended the festival were Bishop Baven, Waverly Girls High and our school St James Preparatory. All of these choirs were mesmerising. Mr Kieswetter has made our choir into a beautiful and happy group of young people.

He is a very spiritual person and this comes out in his work. We become skilled at songs with unusual arrangements. We gain knowledge of songs about God and Jesus but with hip melodies and beats. He makes our lessons fun and interesting and makes us want to learn more.

Now I will tell you about our beautiful English teacher, Mrs Kohler. She makes me want to go to school every day and also makes me want to attend the English class. Mrs Kohler has an amazing spirit and a unique way of teaching. She lets you work at your own pace as long as you keep up with the class. Mrs Kohler is also like a mother to us at school; she guides us through the work and always asks if we understand – if we do not, she asks which part of it is a problem and she explains it even more.

An example of Mrs Kohler’s generosity was expressed last year when she put together an amazing concert about religion done by the students in Grades 4 to 7. Parts of the Bhagavad Gita were done by the Grade 4s to pay respect to Hinduism; parts of the Old Testament were done by the Grade 5s for Judaism; parts of the Noble Quran were done by the Grade 6s for Islam; and parts ofthe New Testament were done by the Grade 7s for Christianity. It was a spiritual evening of song and dance that paid respect to the major religions. It also gave us an opportunity to think about other religions.

In English Mrs Kohler is always giving us challenging debates and essays which have a strong research component and this has honed our research skills. This has been and always will be very valuable.

I have learned so much about religion and accepting people for who they are – from not only these teachers, but also from all the teachers and other staff members. I leave the school with a strong belief in truth, love and service.”

Quoted from ‘Great South African Teachers’ edited by Professor Jonathan Jansen