Healthy teachers are happy teachers

Dennegeur Primary School teachers Crystal Vorster, left, and Melissa Isaacs were in the top 4 for achieving outstanding results during the Teachers on the Move pilot programme.

Two teachers from Dennegeur Primary School in Strandfontein joined the Teachers on the Move pilot programme to promote a healthy lifestyle for their pupils and themselves.

But they did not expect to win prizes as a result of their hard work and dedication.

The pilot, launched in August last year and sponsored by Woolworths, was established to help foster a culture of physical activity and healthy habits among teachers.

Dennegeur Primary School was one of four schools which participated in the six-month training programme, which encouraged teachers to set an example for their pupils, and also helped them to follow a wholesome physical education programme with the pupils at the school.

Melissa Isaacs, a Grade 1 teacher at the school, said they hadn’t been told it was a competition.

“They said there were rewards, and we thought it was just participation certificates, but then they gave awards to the ones who lost the most and were the most dedicated.”

Crystal Vorster, who teaches the Grade 2s at Dennegeur Primary, said she was very proud. “We were very dedicated. We were here every week and the teachers didn’t mind leaving late. We enjoyed it.”

Ms Isaacs lost about 12kg during the programme, while Ms Vorster lost 17kg. They also achieved significant reductions in their blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels.

Ms Vorster said the hard part for her was giving up fast food. “I used to love Wajiets Take-Aways, but since I started the programme, they don’t see me anymore,” she said.

The teachers each won free membership to the Sports Science Institution gym in Newlands.

Ms Isaacs said the initiative was good for them because of the way teachers live.

“We are overworked, and when we come home, we don’t feel like doing physical activity and will just grab something quick to eat.”

Now, she said, she makes healthier decisions when choosing what to eat, and she can see it rubbing off on her pupils.

“My children will see teacher has a salad, and they will say, ‘I also want a fruit, or, ‘I’ll tell my mommy to put in a nice healthy sandwich.’ So they are also aware of those things, and if you are doing it, they will also do the same.”

Ms Vorster said she now has much more energy.

“A lot of teachers have high blood pressure and all these other illnesses, but the exercise helped me. Everything was high – my cholesterol and blood pressure – but everything dropped, and I have more energy. This helped me outlive many sicknesses I could have had.”

Now that the pilot is complete, Ms Isaacs and Ms Vorster are trying to stay fit and healthy, but it is a bit of a challenge because there is no one keeping an eye on them.

“We try to do it on our own here at the school. But because they sent the trainers every Monday during the programme, you knew that person was coming. Now, we struggle a bit because the trainers motivated us a lot. And we need that little push, but we keep it up in terms of our weight loss,” said Ms Vorster.

In a statement, Woolworths’ general manager of the Loyalty and MySchool programme, Pieter Twine, said: “We are very pleased to have the opportunity to help teachers in the schools where our healthy eating and sustainable lifestyle programme is already being taught to learners.

“Other than the positive lifestyle change for these teachers, they have become ambassadors of healthy living, which we have no doubt will inspire their learners to make healthy lifestyle choices.

“We hope that we can extend this programme to primary school educators across the country participating in the Woolworths education programme.”