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Our teachers - Gwendolynn de Jager

Briefly introduce yourselfSanchia Slater

My name is Gwendolynn de Jager. I work as an EPD administrator and facilitator at the Wits Language School. My duties involve a lot of the administration required for both public and corporate courses: responding to student and client enquiries, pre-assessments, drawing up proposals, attending meetings, moderation, editing documentation. I also mentor facilitators and am involved in course development. My favourite “duty” is, of course, facilitating courses. Before I joined the EPD team, I worked as a high school teacher for 7 years. I taught English Home Language and Dramatic Arts.

How did you decide on the teaching profession? Have you always wanted to be a teacher?

My mother is fond of reminding me that I used teach all my soft toys and dolls. She believes that it is an inherent passion of mine. However, I never thought that I would actually take it up as a permanent profession. It was during my final year as a drama student that I realised how much I enjoyed having a small hand in someone’s development. It is a great privilege to witness how someone develops a specific skill and grows all the more confident in doing something they might have struggled with initially. After graduating, I applied for a teaching position at a high school, went for an interview and got the job. It was the beginning of what continues to be a very blessed teaching career.  

What is your teaching philosophy and classroom management style?

I believe it is important to develop what someone already has in them. Every person is different; every person has their own special characteristics and they should be allowed to grow and evolve these – especially in a classroom situation.  Students should feel safe, comfortable and free in the classroom.  At the same time, it is important that they understand that there is work and a lot of learning (not limited to the work) to be done.

What do you enjoy the most about teaching? What do you dislike the most about teaching? Why?

I enjoy the funny moments which just happen in the class; it is great to laugh together. On a more serious note, I love that I have the opportunity to play a part in helping someone realise their goals. The BEST part is when a student comes back to you and says, ‘Thank you for believing in me’ or ‘Thank you for seeing something in me and telling me about it; I might not have known otherwise’ or ‘Thank you for encouraging me to keep on keeping on’. On the less positive side, I would say that sometimes the administration is a bit time-consuming.

What do you think is a common misconception your students have about you or teachers in general?

I don’t experience this as much as I did when I was a high school teacher, but sometimes students tend to think that one is a teacher in every context. It is important to remember that outside the classroom, teachers also let their hair down and have fun!

What do you think makes you unique as a teacher?

I laugh quite a lot, even when I teach. I think it helps my students know that they can relax and have fun.

Do you have any words of advice for students embarking on the English for Professional Development (EPD) courses?

It is important to remember throughout the process why you decided to commit to completing this journey in the first place; keep the bigger picture intact. Be sure to work consistently from the very first day so as to ensure that you make optimal progress and come to terms with the English language step by step. Your facilitator will guide you: it is, ultimately, your decision to follow or not.

Do you have a motto, saying or quote that you think sums up the teaching experience for you as an educator?

This quote, which my drama teacher passed on to me, stays with me:
        “I can teach you the gesture pattern that indicates looking at the moon. I can teach you the movement up to the tip of the finger which points to the sky. From the tip of your finger to the moon is your own responsibility.”