The end of 2017 marked the end of an era with the retirement of three of our beloved mentors – Bill Holderness, Avryl Smith and Sibongile Godlwana (affectionately known as Mrs G).
With over a century of educational experience between them, these three pedagogic giants brought considerable value to our organisation. It is safe to say that, through their classroom practice, school management, material development, policy change and teacher mentorship, they have left the field of teaching and learning forever changed.
Since joining the Edufundi team, Bill, Avryl and Mrs G have shared their wealth of knowledge with colleagues and mentees alike and have epitomised the concept of a Growth Mindset by embracing a whole new approach to classroom practice in the form of Teach Like a Champion. In so doing, each one has shown us all what it means to be a lifelong learner!
Having served as the principal of a school in KZN prior to joining the Edufundi team, Mrs G commanded respect in the schools in which she worked. She was firm and fair in her approach, often delivering hard messages with a sweet “my baby” at the end of her sessions, in so doing making everything softly palatable for everyone she met with and supported. Mrs G really did regard all of her mentees as her babies and gifted them with the presence of her wisdom and experience.
Mrs G led a workshop for the first time in Isandlwana in 2017 and did an incredible job, remarking proudly afterwards that “she wasn’t too old to learn”. Where would we be without you, our treasured Gogo, Mrs G? Over the last 10 years you have seen this organisation go through revolutionary changes, and you have been an invaluable part of making Edufundi what it is today. In faithfully carrying out your role as mother, teacher, manager, mentor and friend you have touched hearts and changed lives. We are all better mentors, colleagues and humans because of you!
Bill and Avryl worked alongside each other as a team in KwaNobuhle, Eastern Cape and, most recently, were part of the Volkswagen Literacy Project, where they supported five schools in the area.
One of her teachers remarked that the first thing Avryl does with you is to “show you love”. Avryl worked her way into the hearts and classrooms of everyone she supported, and her exceptional creativity and passion for resources ensured that every classroom she visited was brightly lit up with the items she carried in her kit, which she used when demonstrating to her teachers. Her teaching ideas were always meticulously planned and executed and Avryl was a shining example of what can be done when a skilled and passionate teacher has adequate resources on hand.
Even though Avryl has left the project and her schools, the routines and techniques she taught her teachers have stuck and there has been a remarkable transformation in the classrooms and lives of those with whom she has worked. Avryl, your deep commitment to the profession and the joyful enthusiasm with which you have lived out your calling are truly inspirational. Thank you for sharing yourself with us.
Many of his mentees were excited to see him come in to their schools as it allowed them to be re-acquainted with their “Prof”. Bill mentored his teachers with warmth and careful attention to detail and put 100% effort and care into all of his sessions. His wife Ros is also a retired teacher, and she played an integral role in supporting Bill’s work with Edufundi.
In 2014, Bill was responsible for running a spelling competition across the schools he supported and learners were gifted with a dictionary that he had authored. Ros spent countless hours supporting him in grading the tests, and it was a wonderful experience for all the children involved and helped greatly to improve their vocabulary and love of the English language.
Bill was always full of energy and his enthusiasm never waned. Always open to listening to stories and to sharing some of his own, Bill’s words of wisdom will remain forever in our hearts. Bill, thank you for your insight, your readiness to help and your meticulous attention to detail. You have shown us what it means to lead by example, with gentleness and a servant heart. We already miss your wisdom, wit and warmth.
Go well, good and faithful servants. You have dedicated your lives to enriching the lives of others… now enjoy the retirement you so richly deserve. Thank you for all you have done and all you have been. We love you and we miss you already.
Written by Robyn Pitot and Taryn Casey