World Teachers' Day: A veteran retires after 37 years of service

World Teachers' Day: A veteran retires after 37 years of service

Happy World Teachers' Day! We pay tribute to a teacher who has served her community for 37 years.

World Teachers' Day - Maureen Martin

It's World Teachers' Day, and to celebrate the incredible work educators do, we are shining the spotlight on a woman who has taught hundreds of pupils in her lifetime. 

Maureen Martin worked in the teaching profession for 37 years before announcing her retirement this year.

Her teaching career began in 1980, as a History and Life Orientation teacher at Fairvale Secondary School in Durban's Wentworth area.

Two decades later she would be promoted to Head of the Social Sciences Department. 

Teaching was not Martin's first choice, and she says the profession chose her. 

"After finishing matric, I wanted to study to become a social worker. My father did not want me to study in Cape Town. Under the apartheid government Coloureds could study this course at the University of Western Cape. So, I began to look at doing something else," she says. 

Martin says she was unemployed for six months after matric before getting an unexpected call.

"The late principal of Fairvale Secondary School, Mr Field, then contacted me to teach History to Grade 8 and Grade 9’s at the school. He informed me that I would do enough social working in the classroom."

And the rest, excuse the pun, is history.

Martin, who holds a Higher Diploma in Education and a Further Diploma in Education from the then University of Natal, has helped shape the careers and lives of many teenagers in her community. 

"I know that many learners have experienced social problems that affect their education. Some have persevered and overcome these challenges, while others have succumbed to these problems," she says. 

But Martin says she always tried to instill in her pupils the school's motto, "strive for success". 

"I want to let them know that they can achieve anything that they put their minds to. Education is the key to success."

She may be an educator, but Martin is always learning herself. At the age of 52,  she completed a Bachelor of Education Honours (BEd Hons.) degree in Gender Education with History as a Module at the University of KwaZulu Natal.

She also holds a certificate in School History and a Higher Certificate in Adult Basic Education from UNISA. 

Martin has seen it all during her 37-year career, and she says she will never forget the lessons she learned along the way.

"Each year, each day and each hour there is something different. The many learners that I have taught, some impressed me with what they achieved and others were challenging because they did not want to learn. However, the rewards of the hard work and time spent doing my round the clock job made it all worthwhile. The learners who have taken the time to say, 'You made a difference in my life; is what kept me going all these years. I will also cherish the moments when I meet my ex-learners after many years and seeing them today as successful professionals - lawyers, engineers, journalists, accountants, teachers, nurses, doctors, " she says. 

One of her pupils even went on to become Mrs South Africa! 

Martin says she will miss the laughter she shared with her students. 

"I’ve been lucky enough to have a great relationship with my learners and shared lots of laughter and banter while always showing each other respect. Through the good and the bad, there were always hugs to comfort them and applaud them. Professionally, I will miss the learners as they gave me the rewards, by being there and showing me they had learned something after I pushed them and tried to inspire them. Through my History teachings I could open young minds about the world around them and encourage them to question and keep learning about the past to understand the present and create a brighter future." 

One of her favourite quotes is from the great Nelson Mandela, and sums up the importance of World Teachers' Day.

"Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela

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