Farewell letter

BY Mrs M. Woods

2016, being my retirement year at Riebeek College, has been so very special, although probably the year that has flown by the fastest. I consider it a privilege to be able to retire while still
loving my job.

I have tried, over the years, to entrench and nourish values in the ethos of the school since our founder, Braam van Straten, in his wisdom, saw the need to establish a girls only school in Uitenhage. Proudly catering to the diverse religious beliefs and cultures that we so proudly count among our numbers today, the all-encompassing Fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control; has been the foundation stone upon which my leadership has been based.

I am proud of having established traditions that can be carried forward, such as our annual themes. Each year we display our theme proudly for all to see and enjoy, and for many the theme statement becomes a watchword in their planning and actions.

I feel the need to thank so many people who have paved the path of my career, making the walk a happy, exciting and fun one. I have often said it, and I’d like to say it again. I still come to work each morning with a spring in my step. How blessed I have been, and how blessed I am, to be able to say this, and to thank:

Each and every child that I have had the pleasure of teaching and guiding;

All the many teachers who have come and gone over the years…and, in particular, all the present staff;

All the administrative staff – past and present;

All the wonderful parents, whose children I have been blessed to work with: May you nurture them and enjoy watching them develop into fine young ladies;

The principals under whom I have had the privilege of serving: Miss Jean Bartlett, Mrs Dorothy Hutton, Mrs Natalie Stear and Miss Laura Bekker; from each I have learnt something unique and special;

Most importantly, as always, my family: My sisters, Carol, Gail and Joan, all staunch ex-Riebeek girls and supporters, who have stood by me throughout my career, have been so proud of me and who have never shied away from offering their honest opinions and advice; my special daughters-in-law, Elana and Theresa, who have always been willing to ensure that I remain involved in their lives, and in my sons’ lives; lastly, my sons, Gareth and Darren, who have always being there for me, and whose understanding of the importance of “my job” over all these years has been generously given. These men have looked after me with such love and tenderness when I most needed it.

I mention, with great tenderness, my late husband, Russel, without whose love, understanding and support I would not have been able to sustain such a record of unbroken committed service to my Alma Mater. He was my soul mate, whose unstinting help and belief allowed me to develop as an individual, and to maintain my enthusiasm and sense of excitement about my calling as a teacher.

I say goodbye to Riebeek College, feeling content and ready to embark on the next phase of my life, as I believe I still have so much to give and enjoy. I know that Riebeek is in a good place. I have given everything I had to Riebeek College and though there is much still to do, I leave these tasks in the hands of others, hoping that those shaping a future for the country, or working with vulnerable youth, will remember “the Way of the Woods” and never give up on people. I have never given up on a child, no matter what.

This I proudly say. One is never only a teacher. One is a comforter, a nurse, an adviser, a protector, a listener, instructor, mentor, trainer, coach, counselor, psychologist and most importantly, an away from home “mother”.

Teaching is, after all, a task that has no final destination. So, in closing, I am reminded of the beautiful words of the Greek poet, Constantine Cavafy, writing about a mythical outcome or destination, Ithaka, that does not exist,

“hope that your road is long,
full of adventure, full of discovery…
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won't have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you'll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.”

In the end it is the journey and not the destination that is important. Riebeek has always been in good hands, and I know that this is not going to change. I wish the new principal the very best, and the assurance that my continued support and love for my Alma Mater, that has been so good to me, will grow through the coming years.

And so it gives me immense pleasure to end my last magazine entry with the phrase that I coined when I became principal: Once a Riebeek girl, Always a Riebeek girl.

 December 04, 2016
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