Every school pupil remembers their teachers, the men and women who shaped them, cared for them, advised them, nurtured their interests and who were blessed with infinite patience.
These are people who shape a school, who are spoken about with fondness and who, above anything else, have answered a calling in their lives, wanting to share their knowledge in developing and preparing young children for their journeys through life.
Kloof Junior Primary School bade farewell early in the first term this year to one such teacher, Lynda Weir, who retired after 18 years at the school. Even as she said goodbye, it was easy to see that she will be remembered by hundreds of pupils, past and present, as a teacher who lived each day with passion and a love for what she did.
“I come from a family of teachers and it was in my blood from an early age. It was something I wanted to do and being brought up in that environment, it was naturally a career I wanted to follow,” she said. “It was in my blood and from my first day, I knew it was what I wanted to do and where I was meant to be.”
Lynda’s dad was a teacher and that meant a lot of moving, wherever promotion was offered. “We went from Pietermaritzburg to Estcourt to Northdene, and while we lived in Northdene, I attended Sarnia Primary School where my dad was and then went to Westville Girls’ High School,” said Lynda. “An interesting fact was Mrs Abbott, KJP’s current front office administrator, and I were at school together without knowing it. We only discovered this when we met up at KJP.”
Another move saw Lynda finish her schooling at Estcourt High and she returned to Maritzburg to start her studies, qualifying in the early 1980s. “It was a foundation phase diploma that I completed but I majored in remedial teaching,” she said. “Remedial teaching was not heard of then and it was only on arriving at KJP that I had a remedial class.”
Back then, studying to be a teacher was subsidised and on qualifying after four years, Lynda had to work at government schools for four years. “I was given a choice of three schools and I went to Richmond Primary School where I lived in the hostel and had a wonderful time. I have restless feet and after 10 years, I wanted to move on,” said Lynda. “I bought a house in Maritzburg which I used as a base and moved out from there.”
Some time at Laddsworth Primary School up in Hilton was followed by long leave and here Lynda and her husband, then her boyfriend, combined their love for adventure and the outdoors by taking their bicycles and a tent to cycle around Europe and parts of America.
“This was in the early 1990s and it was a terrible thing to do because it has stuck in my soul and I need to do it again,” laughed Lynda. “We started in Holland to warm up as it was flat, then went across to the UK and then Scotland. Often we left our bikes and hiked and then we packed them in boxes once again as we headed to the USA.”
The adventurous duo landed in Chicago and then rode around the great lakes before returning to the UK. “We did it on a shoestring as we had a tight and strict budget and the whole trip was about nine months,” said Lynda. “It was safe to do and it was an incredible life experience. Once that travel bug had bitten, it has remained ever since.”
Back home, Lynda found herself at Athlone Primary School in Maritzburg but with her now husband working in Durban, they bought a house in Gillitts. “I started looking in the area for a new post and found KJP in 2005 where I have remained. Not bad for an intrepid traveler and it’s the longest I have ever remained in one place,” she said. “As a foundation phase school, it was where I wanted to be and everything about the school is focused on the children at this age. With the focus on the children you love teaching and influencing, I had found my paradise.”
A big change in the curriculum and what is offered to the children these days, plus the advent of social media, computers and cellphones has all been seen by Lynda but her biggest reward has been developing each child and appreciating each learner’s character and interest, knowing what makes them tick.
“Learning has changed from a form of drilling to fun. We interact with children and what we want to teach them, encouraging participation, asking questions and laughing along the way. It’s a fantastic environment and it stimulates the children and makes them all feel they belong and are part of everything,” said Lynda.
Unbeknown to many people, Lynda cycled to work at KJP regularly from Le Domaine, using the back roads and appreciating the sounds of the dawning day as she hit the road at 5.30am. “I did it to keep fit and active plus it was ahead of the traffic and made me feel at one with nature hearing the frogs, birds, beetles and flowing streams. It was the ideal start to the day.”
Now that adventure bug has surfaced again as Lynda and her husband, who has also retired, plan a trip around the far reaches of South Africa, the Garden Route, the West Coast, into the Kalahari, driving around but with the bicycles taken with. “We will stop at campsites and then spend time exploring on our bikes. Now we are retired, time is our own so we don’t have to plan but, we are eyeing another overseas cycling trip later this year,” said Lynda. “We are keen on Norway and to see the Northern Lights but if we don’t do that this year, we will probably go to Ireland.”
With a love for children, a calling for her chosen career and a spirit of adventure, it’s easy to see why Lynda will be missed and how she can look back with fondness on a rich, rewarding career.
Just watching her walk past some classrooms for possibly the last time, it was heartening to see learners rushing to see her and give her a warm, genuine hug. It’s fair to say, that only teaching gives such warm and meaningful reward. No wonder Lynda chose it as her profession.
Written by Dave Knowles