Principal retires but continues to teach

Andre Pretorius recently retired as principal of Heathfield Primary School.

Steenberg resident Andre Pretorius started teaching at Heathfield Primary School 40 years ago and after serving as principal for 24 years, he ended his tenure last term.

While Mr Pretorius, 60, has retired, he will still be involved in uplifting and empowering teachers and children.

Not one to sit still, he has already joined SKCI (Skills Knowledge Creativity Innovation), a teacher development organisation which was started four years ago, and is run by Greg Vlotman.

“I’m also involved in giving back to Heathfield High School,” he said.

As a qualified counsellor, Mr Pretorius said he would be starting an anger management programme at Heathfield High this term.

His motto is to do more than just teach. “A teacher should teach children manners and tell the child that he or she is loved as well as that the teacher believes in him or her. A teacher should also try to be a good role model,” he said.

Mr Pretorius believes that children should work hard and have goals as well as take responsibility for their actions.

When asked if he had always wanted to be a teacher he said. “Yes, since an oral interview with the school inspector in Standard 10 (Grade 12) at South Peninsula High for possible enrolment at Hewat Training College.”

Mr Pretorius said he came from a family of teachers. “My dad, my middle sister, uncle in Canada and uncle from Port Elizabeth as well as a family members in Upington, were all teachers.”

While teaching was in his blood, educating children was not always easy. One of the biggest challenges he experienced was children with anger issues. “The process to turn this around is intense but rewarding, especially with boys with absent dads.

“At Heathfield Primary we do this through a three-day programme approach (focusing on) BigMac (restorative justice), sport and counselling at school level and with a Western Cape Education Department (WCED) social worker or Hope House.”

Despite the challenges, he said, there were many rewarding moments during his career. “It was rewarding when teaching the kids and time spent in class while engaging with the pupils in a fun way.

“If I wanted to motivate them to want to achieve, I shared my personal journey about being a late academic achiever at university and my anger issues, not feeling good enough and how I overcame it through having mentors, people who believed in me. My favourite quote is Never let your location determine your destination.”

Having been a teacher for 40 years, different generations have passed through Mr Pretorius’ hands. Asked what he thought the difference was between today’s generation and those who came before, he said: “Today’s children are not reading as much as the previous generation. This has a huge impact on learning. They are preoccupied with social media in a wrong way and sometimes obsessed by it.”

He said negativity on social media such as cyber-bullying and inappropriate language have a negative impact on them.

However, on the “plus side”, he said, if social media is used correctly, it would benefit them. For example, Heathfield Primary pupils benefited from the use of technology where reading apps were used, he said.

When asked what advice would he give to the next principal, he said. “The use of the restorative justice system which incorporates the circle of courage, methodology of belonging, independence, generosity and mastery, works. Also to use sport to turn around lives of children as well as to continue with leadership camps (which he was active with) because it builds character, self-esteem and pupil-teacher relationships.

“They must continue to be a place alive with possibility. Heathfield Primary is blessed with a hardworking staff as shown by our good systemic results.

“They work well together on school projects and attend in-service staff development conversations run by the school management team, WCED or outside service providers to encourage and support a sense of what it means to be a contributing team member.”

But for now, it’s time for a break and Mr Pretorius plans to take time out with his wife Angela and three sons Jarryd, 30, Stefan, 25, and Thorbjorn, 22. And he’ll also be indulging his love for motorcycling. “I am riding a Kawasaki 2300, looking at upgrading to a Suzuki V-Strom or Kawasaki Versys 650cc.”

“Riding on the open road liberates you from life’s stresses and worries,” he said.