Hendrina Williams was still in her early teens when she decided she was going to be a teacher one day.
The 65-year from Bridgetown is now retiring after a teaching career spanning 44 years.
After finishing Grade 10 at Bridgetown High School, she did two years of teaching training before doing her practical training Cedar Primary School – and that’s where she stayed ever since.
In 1976, she started teaching the school’s Standard 2 (Grade 4) pupils – the country was in turmoil in the wake of the Soweto uprising, and youngsters fleeing the police were running onto the school grounds, hiding in classrooms.
It was, she recalled, a time of Casspirs and teargas and traumatised children.
“After some time, things normalised, and we supported each other as colleagues. The children’s parents were also different back then: they were supportive of their children’s education.
“It was a time when parents were approachable about their children’s behaviour, and they assisted the teacher.
“Now it’s different; the teacher is on his or her own most of the time.”
Ms Williams has a reputation for being strict and demanding good manners from pupils. Pupils bunking at home could expect a visit from her.
According to school principal Carlin Symonds, Ms Williams – who served on various school committees – isn’t the sort of person who sits back and waits for someone else to sort out a problem.
If something needed doing, she did it, Ms Symonds said, and that included giving pupils clean clothes, conducting house visits, scrubbing the classroom floors, cleaning the toilets, cleaning other teachers’ classrooms, and sorting out school admin.
Ms Williams said seeing the school and her pupils grow had been her biggest motivation to keep teaching.
“I have reached retirement age, and while I am sad, I have given teaching my entire life. It is time for me to pour my energy into different things.
“I want to encourage pupils to strive for the best no matter their circumstances and to look up to good role models.”
Ms Symonds said Ms Williams had been at the forefront of getting both the school and her church Covid-19 compliant.
She praised her for adding value to the lives of three generations at Cedar Primary and being a role model to pupils, teachers and her community.