Shirley joined Edupeg with a wealth of experience and was a dedicated member of the team for over thirteen years. Edupeg’s founder, Liz Swersky, appointed Shirley as a senior team member and drew on her skills to develop and strengthen the organisation. She spent the first 11 years working as an Intermediate Phase trainer throughout the Western Cape, providing support to a myriad of far flung schools. She also supported teachers in rural Isandlwana, KwaZulu-Natal. Shirley initially focused on training teachers how to use the Edupeg materials. These training sessions were followed by in-classroom support visits and hours of personal coaching; after school she would spend time with each teacher offering further support on teaching practice, sharing her wealth of knowledge and experience and adjusting her tips and tricks to suit each person’s unique circumstances.
Returning to the Edupeg head office after these school visits, Shirley and her colleague Ingrid would use their learnings and insights to assist Liz with refining the Edupeg model. In time it was decided that a greater impact would be achieved if they made more frequent visits to less schools, and came up with better tools to observe, measure and track teachers’ progress. These ideas were implemented and the results were positive. As the Edupeg model grew, so did the Edupeg team; additional mentors were brought on board and Shirley assisted with their training and support. As a trained Lifeline counsellor she had deep insight into human nature and what makes people connect. This proved invaluable for teambuilding and fostering positive working relationships.
(L-R) Shirley assisting a teacher at 7 Fountains, Uitenhage 2005, Team Building 2016, Team Building 2013
Over the last three years Edupeg underwent even more significant changes, and Shirley adapted to them all with confidence and grace. Her enthusiasm for the Teach Like a Champion methodology and the opportunity it presented for teachers and mentors alike was remarkable. She submerged herself in each technique and helped modify the tools to meet the organisation’s specific needs. This served her well as she took on the role of ‘mentor to mentors’ – providing guidance and support to all the Intermediate Phase mentors in the ever-growing team. This involved visiting the schools in each province, every term and providing personal one-on-one assistance to mentors. She also read through every mentor’s daily reports and offered relevant feedback and practical suggestions for them to fulfil their role more effectively. Shirley put an enormous amount of effort into this, researching strategies and Teach like a Champion techniques and matching them to various challenges experienced in the Intermediate Phase. This was certainly appreciated by all. One mentor had this to say:
“If Shirley were a car she would undoubtedly be a 4x4 (Land Cruiser) – stylish and sophisticated, and capable of navigating almost any terrain. As a new member of the Edupeg team I relied a great deal on her wealth of knowledge and experience. Even more valuable, however, was her deep insight into human nature and the subtle intricacies of interpersonal relationships. Somehow she managed to communicate all this in simple, practical terms. After all, isn’t the point of ‘knowing’ and ‘understanding’ to do something significant with the information? When combined, these strengths made for an inspiring and highly effective mentor and confidante. It isn’t often that one encounters a leader with such unassuming but absolute authority. I will be forever grateful to Shirley for the way in which she equipped us all to make a positive impact on those with whom we work.”
Shirley with some of her Intermediate Phase mentors
Shirley’s deep love and respect for the teaching profession – and all those involved in education – was evident in all she did as a mentor, coach and advisor. Her kindness, wisdom and endless patience won the hearts of those she supported and encouraged. While the teachers and mentors came from vastly different geographical and socio-economic contexts, all were treated with the same genuine care and respect. Over the years Shirley left an indelible mark on everyone she encountered – not only the mentors and teachers, but also the thousands of learners whose lives she impacted.
As a team at large we have learned a great deal from Shirley, and we will be forever grateful to her for giving so much of herself. Her lessons, both inside and outside the classroom, will continue to change lives for a long, long time to come.