Walvis Bay Private High School (WBPHS) said farewell to their long-serving principal Estelle Eigelaar on 31 August.
Eigelaar retired after 24 years and six months.
She matriculated at Grens High School in 1978, East London, in the Eastern Cape in South Africa.
“Thereafter I completed my education qualification at the University of Cape Town in 1982. My first appointment as teacher was at Walvis Bay Private High School (then known as Hoërskool Walvisbaai).
“At the end of 1983, we relocated to South America for three years where I taught primary school learners of South African citizens in Caldera, Chile. We returned to Walvis Bay at the end of 1986, where I acted as a relief teacher at De Duine Secondary School for a trimester and then joined Walvis Bay Private High School once again at the end of 1987, where I stayed until August 2020.
“In 1991, I became a head of department and in 1996, I became the principal at a young age of 35 years at a stage when the school went through very difficult times; a new medium of instruction and new curriculum.
“Immediately after my appointment, I completed my principal’s diploma in professional leadership and throughout the years I attended principal’s symposiums, workshops and seminars to keep on par with the challenges of the profession,” Eigelaar said.
Highlights and challenges
She said being a principal in a diverse community gave her great pleasure.
“To make the school a better place, to be part of appointing staff members, to help learners develop and excel was definitely one of the greatest things. Additionally, experiencing the growth, development and excellent results the learners produced and being part of a school community who takes pride in the different levels of the school, academically, spiritually and physically, can be seen as the highlights of being principal of WBPHS.”
Challenges are part of being principal. She said that the mission of the school includes upholding Christian values, to create a school spirit for the equal development of all individuals to their full potential and to encourage each learner to take responsibility for themselves through partnership with parents and the community.
“In the process it was a great challenge finding balance for one self.”
A day in the life
A day in the life of a principal comprises of making sure the school operations run smoothly.
“Maintaining an open-door policy, a day in my life as school principal consisted in solving problems as they came my way. As the one staff member, child or parent left the office, the following one was next in line. Planning accordingly, communicating and giving feedback, documenting and recording data was what kept me busy on a daily basis.
“Being available meant that situations could be dealt with immediately and small problems did not become giant as they were dealt with as soon as possible.”
“Being a school principal has its levels of stress, as problems, not necessarily your own, come your way every single day. In the retirement phase of my life, I would like to destress in what I do, see, explore, travel and broaden my horizons,” she said.
“Being a school principal, you are literally on duty 24/7. In the little spare time left over for myself, it was of utmost importance to seek tranquillity and peace, so that when the following day and the following challenges arose, I was well rested, prepared and ready for what came next.”
Eigelaar said with in-service training, workshops and staff development, great emphasis was put on operating as a professional learning centre where the entire group of professionals engage in coming together for learning within a supportive community.
“Teacher and administrator learning are more complex, deeper and more fruitful in a social setting, where participants can interact, test their ideas and challenge their inferences and interpretations, and process new information with each other. The school as a professional learning centre provided a setting that is richer and more stimulating and my message to the incoming principal, teachers and the learners is to continue on this path where relationships between teachers and parents and teachers and learners are constantly improved in order to create a fruitful scenario for better learning and better results.”
Mother, wife, teacher
Eigelaar is a happily married mother of three - two daughters and a son, all products of Walvis Bay Private High School and the University of Stellenbosch. All three achieved degrees in civil engineering. “I have six grandchildren, three boys and three girls, all under the age of six.”
“It was my motto to arrange my personal life around my career, and not the other way round.
“I am now looking forward to concentrate on my personal life, take care of things that are long overdue, explore the creative side of my life and enrich my inner self,” she said.
“I strongly believed in empowering people to become their better self, to do what they enjoy and to seek satisfaction in their achievements. People should not be driven by fear, but by pleasure. I am most grateful to the Lord for His guidance, blessings and opportunities He has given us at the school. May the school continue depending on this.”
“I would like to give praise and gratitude to Lloyd Ulrich, Dr Louis Burger, Bertus Gouws, late Eckhart Mueller, Koos van Staden, Dr Gavin Keller, and so many others who served as mentors and role models in my path as school principal over the past 24 years,” Eigelaar said.
SAYING FAREWELL: Estelle Eigelaar, former principal of Walvis Bay Private High School. Photo: Contributed