Making a change through teaching the future leaders of tomorrow
Born in the 1960s, Bernadette Hess grew up in Cape Town and was the only daughter out of four children. She attended the Catholic Convent primary school and it was this school that moulded her into the individual that she is today.
Hess’s parents made sure to enrol her in piano lessons, elocution classes and participating in eisteddfods. After high school, she graduated from the University of Western Cape and started her teaching career in Mitchell’s Plain.
“When I got married in 1989, I followed my husband to Namibia. My first teaching post in Namibia was at Suiderlig Secondary in Keetmanshoop. Thereafter we moved to Okahandja, where I taught at Okahandja Secondary School,” she says.
Her husband was then appointed at Namcol and once again they packed their bags and moved to Windhoek, where Hess joined Dawid Bezuidenhout High School in 1999.
Both her parents were medical professionals and they hoped their children would follow in their footsteps, so when she decided to become a teacher, they did not welcome the idea but supported her regardless.
Hess loves the learning and teaching environment, especially since a teacher has the potential to unlock hidden treasures by stimulating the dormant talents of those who are left in their care for a number of hours per day.
Over the years she always taught English and was responsible for teaching grade 11 and 12 English ordinary level and higher level. Since Dawid Bezuidenhout does not offer grade 12 and AS anymore, she is currently responsible for grade 10 English.
“Being a language teacher can be very demanding and we become bogged down with lots of marking. So, much of my time goes into preparation – finding a suitable article and planning my lessons based on it, be it comprehension, grammar, oral or any other component of the syllabus,” she says.
Being one of the founding members of NSDA was a great game changer for the promotion of the English language in the country. Co-editing English publications used in schools was one of her accomplishments as well. However, she states that she cannot single out one big achievement.
“Looking beyond the confines of the classroom, with the wonderful support of the teachers at school and the principal, I had the privilege to launch groups that gave the learners the opportunity to showcase their skills: debating and public speaking society, spellig bee competitions, and the Aim to Change outreach group,” she explains.
When asked about what she has on her bucket list, number one was to go on a pilgrimage to Israel and she was fortunate enough to experience exactly that. Next on her list is going on a hot-air balloon ride.
“After 37 years of teaching I feel that I’m not done. Yes, teaching has become very challenging given our present situation and at times I feel overworked and underappreciated but if given the chance to choose what profession to follow, I would make the same choice without a doubt,” she says.
Her advice to anyone reading this article is that one should allow your passion to direct your life path, and that not everything can be measured in monetary terms. Always give more than what is expected and go that extra mile; a smile or a nod of understanding goes a long way and makes your career more rewarding.