After nine years of heading Blomvlei Primary School in Hanover Park, Dawn Petersen was awarded with the National Teachers Award for Excellence in Primary School Leadership at the 17th annual Western Cape Top Teachers Awards.
The 2016 provincial awards ceremony was held at the West Campus Building, Mutual Park, in Pinelands on Friday November 4.
Ms Petersen, who grew up in Hanover Park with her parents and three siblings, started her journey as principal of the school in 2007. She comes from a family well-known in the area for the work that they do in the community.
She attended St Raphaels Primary School, and matriculated from Immaculata High School in 1984. Four years later, she graduated from Hewitt Training College with a Higher Diploma in Education Foundation Phase.
In 1989 she started teaching Grades 2 and 3 at Duneside Primary School in Westridge, Mitchell’s Plain, and stayed there until 2006. A year later she joined the Blomvlei Primary School family which consists of 850 pupils and 22 staff.
For the award, Ms Petersen had to prepare a self-portrait which she had to present to the judges. The theme for this year’s awards was “Our teachers, our Olympians”.
The self -portrait explained why she should be considered for the award.
The following criteria included demonstrating positive and clear leadership in diversity and guiding the school, creating and sustaining, stimulating and supportive learning and teaching environment at the school, and creating and fostering links between the school and real life situations for the benefit of the school.
The Western Cape Education Department received 161 nominations from schools which resulted in 51 cluster finalists, 10 provincial winners and 41 provincial runners-up.
Each school finalist received R5 000 that must be used towards professional development of the whole teaching staff.
The provincial winners received certificates of excellence, along with ICT vouchers.
They also got R12 000 with R7000 for the runners up. In addition, winning schools each received R7 500 that must be used for professional development for the whole teaching staff.
Ms Petersen said with all the social and environmental issues surrounding the school, it is important for teachers to keep motivated. She said when she was growing up in Hanover Park the area was very different to what it is now.
“It was vibrant, and safe. Gangsters were respectful back then. Now it has become a societal issue, gangsterism thrives from many social issues such as the lack of education. I also had to make the right choices and avoid temptation to be where I am today.
“The values and morals that my parents taught me guided me to make the correct choices,” said Ms Petersen.
“As a new principal to the school, I did not listen to what anyone had to say about the school. I worked hard on building relationships with the staff and together it took a lot of hard work to get us where we are now. I try to make the staff feel as special as possible – and always tell the kids that this is their home away from home,” she said.
One thing that all pupils at Blomvlei Primary can look forward to is the weekly principal award which is given to the child who has shown the most improvement for the week.
“I feel very honoured to be have been nominated by the staff, without their support it wouldn’t be the same. I am very grateful to them,” Ms Petersen said.
Ms Petersen will represent the Metropole South and Central Cluster at the national competition taking place from January 15 to January 22, in Pretoria next year.