Blomvlei teacher gets fitting farewell

Nakita Pretorius, Grade 6, shared an emotional ode to her beloved teacher, Myrtle Saayman.

The staff and pupils of Blomvlei Primary School gave a star-studded send-off to teacher Myrtle Saayman, 60, who retired after her 38-year career there.

On Wednesday June 15, the Mount View High School hall was packed with parents, former colleagues and the current staff and pupils, who all came to wish Ms Saayman well on her retirement. Ms Saayman was just 22 when she started her career at Blomvlei Primary. Asked why she had chosen to become a teacher,Ms Saayman said the choice was made easy for her.

“My mother said I must choose between nursing and teaching, and since I love children so much, there was actually only one option for me. I don’t regret my decision. All the children I have ever taught, are so near and dear to me.”

Her colleagues described her as someone who made her presence known in a light-hearted manner, but shewas also known as a strict disciplinarian.

She chuckles when she recalls a Grade 5 boy who got very nervous whenever he needed to approach her.

“He had asthma, and every time this boy had to come to me, he experienced breathing difficulties. I did not realise it at the time, as I just thought it’s because of his asthma, but later we discovered that he actually couldn’t breath properly, as he had a fear for me and had panic attacks when he was near me. He was one of my favourite pupils though, and he didn’t realise it at the time. I will always remember the ones who were the most difficult to teach, but I must say, throughout my years at the school, the respect was always there,” Ms Saayman said.

Although she was looking forward to doing motivational talks among the youth, and “helping them go beyond matric”, she said she would always be a part of the Blomvlei family. She is also looking forward to welcoming her first grandchild, due in September.

For now, she believes her season of teaching is over, and if she should continue, the children would not receive the same quality of teaching she has given over the years.

Greg Mercuur, a former colleague, said when he had started teaching at Blomvlei, he was a “rookie”, with his class in the same row as Ms Saayman’s.

“She made it very clear to me that all the teachers in that row of classrooms are all hard workers and didn’t expect anything less from me. She went out of her way to her best for the school and the pupils. If she thought the pupils play truant, she would go to their homes to fetch them. Myrtle can be proud of the calibre of pupils who came through her hands. She took the lead to arrange farewells and school anniversary celebrations. She was also a needlework teacher, and words fail me when I think of the wonderful exhibitions she had. She was also a netball and athletics coach. Myrtle spent a lifetime at Blomvlei and she’s done sterling work. I hope all the the things on her bucket list will come to fruition, because she certainly deserves it,” Mr Mercuur said.

Roderick Adonis said he had only met Ms Saayman 18 months ago, when he started teaching at Blomvlei, but she left a “mark in my heart”.

“Ms Saayman sings well and she is always ready to quote a Bible text. She will be missed. I am grateful to God that our paths crossed,” he said.

Principal Dawn Petersen said Ms Saayman was someone with a “huge character”.

“She’s a big-hearted person and we are truly going to miss her. Even with our ups and downs, we could not stay cross with her for long. The younger staff all look up to her, as a mother-figure. I’ve only been principal for eight years at the school, and as a new principal, she gave me advice. She’s a wise woman. Being at the school for 38 years, she’s been through it all and formed many valuable relationships. I wish her well and will miss her presence. “There’s a part of her that she didn’t want people to see – for example, when she went to find out why a child is not in school, and discovered they have no food, she quietly bought food for a family in need. There are many pupils she supported and took under her wing, but these she never spoke about,” Ms Petersen said.