In 2015, Devon Valley resident Chrisline Thomas, signed up for an iPOWER Self-Empowering Foundation Programme at Bergzicht Training and Development with the aim of completing the Child Care (previously called Edu Care) Programme of the organisation. She had always dreamt of making a contribution to the  education of preschoolers, but had instead followed another dream after school – working in the hospitality industry. Today, she is a teacher of the Sonneblomme class at Steggies Kleuterskool in Devon Valley.

“After completing a three week internship in the Grade R class of Idas Valley Primary, I was home for about a month before I saw an ad in the newspaper for a teaching assistant at Steggies Kleuterskool,” explains Chrisline.

“I took my CV to them on the Friday and after my interview the manager asked if I could start the coming Monday.”

For the next three months, while completing her probation period, Chrisline impressed her employer, Suzaan Carinus, so much that she offered her a job as a teacher in 2016.

“I have been at Steggies for four years now,” says Chrisline.

When she speaks about her class, there is no doubt that she is a dedicated teacher.

“I have always enjoyed working with children and it brings me great joy to get positive feedback from the parents of the children I teach, because it pushes me to want to do more for their children.”

It’s just one of the reasons that Chrisline enrolled for a SETA-accredited Early Childhood Development course at the Sustainability Institute in Lynedoch shortly after being appointed at Steggies. The course is based on the Montessori teaching style.

“I had to sacrifice my weekends to complete the course,” says Chrisline.

She adds that she is particularly grateful to Suzaan who accommodated her in her endeavours to further her education. Suzaan made sure that there was always a substitute teacher to teach Chrisline’s class when she went to the three weekday classes she had to attend each month. She also had the support of her colleagues, her mother, sister and friends.

“It was difficult to work, look after my daughter and study, but I wanted to do it, so I pushed through.”

After completing the course, she enrolled for a Grade R online course.

“Knowledge is power and the more courses I complete and the more experience I build up, the more I can teach my kids. Things are changing all the time and you have to stay up to speed on all the new developments in early childhood development. It’s important to me.”

Everything she has learned about teaching thus far, says Chrisline, she has applied through her teaching methods.

“Steggies is not a Montesorri school, however, everything I have learned at the Sustainability Institute, including the Montesorri philosophy, I have applied in my class. So when a parent tells me that they can see the impact I have made on their children as a teacher and how I have helped their children develop it brings me great joy.”

“I am proud to teach the little ones in my class. They have a hunger for knowledge.”

While her job as an educator is important to her, she also believes that a teacher’s job extends far beyond educating a child.

“It’s normal for any parent to feel nervous when dropping their child at school and leaving that child in someone else’s care. As a mother myself, I understand how that feels. That’s why I treat the children in my class as I would my own child. Parents know that the moment they hand their child to me in the mornings, I become that child’s parent and I will ensure that they get love and care throughout the day.”

“A teacher needs to have a lot of a patience, a passion for what they do and a love for the children with whom they work. They must also have respect for the children they teach, their colleagues and themselves. If you don’t have those things, then you are in the wrong profession,” she adds.

While Chrisline’s dedication to continually improving her knowledge is the reason that she has managed to build a successful career in the early childhood development sector, she believes that none of it would have been possible without Bergzicht Training and Development’s Edu Care Programme as a stepping stone.

“I would not be here today had it not been for Bergzicht Training and Development. It’s not easy to just walk into a preschool and apply for a job. You need to have the proper training and experience. I just decided to further my education after that.”

Photo: Chrisline Thomas helps one of the children at Steggies Kleuterskool to build a Lego structure. (Lynne Rippenaar-Moses)