The Life and Soul of the Party of Life

BY Mrs S Gerber

Saying goodbye to Jayde had to happen in stages.  There was the longest  hours when she was missing, when no one could sleep or focus and there was the mechanics of being at school when her being missing was reported and her being found was reported.  There was the media frenzy and the arrangements for paying our tributes to her.  There was a time of everyone wanting to own her, albeit with good intentions, and her presence on television, in newspapers and on social media.  Finally, there came a time when each in their own way could reflect on Jayde, the person.


She had a great sense of humour and a sharp wit about her.  She loved to laugh.  There was her sardonic Not my circus, not my monkeys,  how she would pinch her nose and bend over when she just could not stop the laughter.  She had an immense empathy for special needs learners, for internet security and privacy settings on facebook, for combating bullying in all its forms, for animals and she took a genuine interest in the children of her colleagues and friends.  She would laugh at the spirit of our children and anticipate what we would face when they grew older.  She believed in causes and had everyone, even Mr Reynolds, wear red lipstick for April’s campaign against women abuse.  She involved her Grade 7s in the Bring back our Girls campaign but, sadly, we could not bring her back in spite of the spirited campaign the staff embarked on to spread news of her being missing.


Jayde had an old fashioned respect for the management team of Riebeek and would never use our first names.  She would seek our advice humbly and with awe for the experience and knowledge of others.  She was unassuming and modest, yet she was ambitious in wanting to be the best possible teacher.  When Mrs Stear was going through a time tough, Mrs Panayiotou quietly and steadily found ways to make her life easier.  She put together worksheets and drew up programmes to assist Mrs Stear.  She was our Secret Santa organizer and we will miss her arranging the loads of presents at our Christmas party.  She was the computer guru you turned to if something just would not work.   She presented magazine articles that she had spent ages on perfecting.  She never wanted to let anyone down or allow her name to be put on something that was not up to a high standard.  Presentation mattered to Jayde. 


She was a good friend.  Feisty and quick to tell you exactly what she thought.  Protective and a defender of  those around her, she mixed easily among various circles on the staff. 


Jayde was not a complainer or one to fuss.  She was too practical for that - she just got the job done.  Her teacher appraisal documentation, IQMS, was the best of all the staff because she would take time to make sure it was done quickly, neatly and precisely.


One of her last lessons with the Grade 4s was on emotions.  She told them that if you are sad, you should sit on your bed and eat ice cream until you feel better.  We have all tried that remedy in her honour.  Some have undertaken aspects of her bucket list such as the walk on the beach to honour her.  A large group attended the Heal the Metro event to make sense of it all. 


Beth Cooper Howell, herself an Old Girl, wrote:   During disasters, ... the more connections we have and the stronger our bonds are to each other, the more likely we are to survive...To prevent and treat post-traumatic stress disorder, these ties are the best medicine. It’s when we face the toughest times that our true nature reveals itself.  On social media, at church, in marches and during conversations with friends, thousands of people tuned into this biological wiring by focusing on a beautiful and much-loved teacher who has become an icon for everything good in a world gone mad.  And this is what we should cling to, rather than getting caught up in the tabloid frenzy that comes from a real-life event being twisted into a ‘story’.  If we’re innately built to give comfort and support in a time of crisis, then that is what we should do.

Jayde did draw us together in life and in death.  We are a bit kinder to each other and more appreciative of each other as a result.  We remember Ken du Pisanie’s words that our learners learnt more from us in those April days than ever before or since.  We remember his words that HE is in the boat.  We remember the matrics keeping the grade 4s busy playing games in the quad while the staff reeled from the events.  We remember how happy Jayde was at the hockey festival just three days before we lost her, how she encouraged her team while they played and laughed with the first team hockey players she had a short time again returned from a tour with and how she and Miss Pot played on the jumping castle. 

We remember that she was the life and soul of the party of life and that she would want her good work continued.  She wanted to make a difference.  She would be amazed at the difference she made.  Her soul lives on...


 June 26, 2015
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