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Principal's Award - Mrs A. Peltason

BY Mrs M. Woods

One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child. Carl Jung
Mrs Anne Wates Peltason, though part-time technically, is full-time in her loyalty and dedication to Riebeek College Girls’ High School. As an Old Girl (Class of 1965)and a Head of Department before retiring to teach overseas and then returning to Riebeek as a part-time teacher, Mrs Peltason has contributed to Riebeek’s ethos of moulding young ladies who are compassionate and communicate well. She is old school in that she brings a level of professionalism, adherence to procedures and methodology, and dedication to teaching that has diminished over the years in the teaching profession.
Though part-time, Mrs Peltason has unstintingly given of her time to extra-murals which is not strictly required for part-time teachers. She created an Evolutio club to foster a love of art, literature, critical thinking and photography. At the end of term 3, she gave up time to take the girls to a photography workshop and a restaurant at a time when teachers are traditionally burn out and overloaded with end of term work and just a few days before had taken them to the Opera House.
She is the chairlady of South African Council for English Education SACEE Eastern Cape and set the De Beers English Olympiad examination (8000 candidates wrote).
As superintendent of the Sholto McIntyre Hostel, Mrs Peltason is virtually a full time mom to 22 boarders. She is a fair, objective leader who has instilled in the girls many life lessons and skills, like punctuality, register, responsibility. She is open and transparent and goes to great lengths to include the boarders in decision making and to explain procedures and decisions to them. Her leadership style is not one of a dictator of the hostel but an inclusive approach that makes each boarder feel their contribution is valued and will be taken into account. Needless to say, this means she is a very patient person. She never gets angry or shouts at the girls and she has created a home and feeling of sisterhood among the girls. Her initiative to have a boarder of the term has created an incentive for the girls and it is amazing to see her pride when one of hers is selected to a committee or a leadership position. She is supportive, has loads of empathy and is a true Rainbow Nation advocate.
In the classroom, Mrs Peltason creates a warm environment of mutual respect and there is a good understanding of the learners. She gets her girls to talk about things that no-one else could get them to talk about. This speaks to her ability to make the girls feel safe and to confront their inner voices and find a voice. She encourages divergent and critical thinking. She does not teach English, she teaches life lessons of the highest order. Many Old Girls attest to their career choices having been fuelled by the inspiration Mrs Peltason provided. Journalists and teachers may tell you that Mrs Peltason was their “Captain, my captain” of the Walt Whitman poem in Dead Poet’s Society featuring Robin Williams.
Mrs Peltason is an editing guru who, if not a presidential ghost writer, has certainly contributed to the speeches delivered at Riebeek, the school magazine, some press releases are polished and devoid of tautology and embarrassing errors. She is meticulous in signing off on every page she edits as her stamp of having applied due diligence and devotion to the task. Mrs Peltason’s command of the English language is a dying skill in the younger generations, but Mrs Peltason keeps grammar and proper expression alive at Riebeek.
For a “young” lady of her rather advanced years it is beyond us how she remains so young at heart, so sprightly with a spring in her step and her flower in the hair, as she dashes up the stairs to her neat and welcoming classroom eager to revolutionise young minds. She knows stuff about computer usage and is up to date about the world of teenagers and knows things about the frame of reference of a teenager that helps her to engage with them critically and fully.
Riebeek's history includes the reputation of Riebeek as a school where a love of the English language is fostered, and a good education includes a Peltason touch of crossing your t’s and dotting your I’s.

 October 16, 2016
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