Spine road teacher scoops top award

KAYLYNN PALM

When you enter the national award-winning teacher Ga-fieza Ismail’s “Apple classroom” at Spine Road High School in Rocklands you are bound to have an exciting English lesson, using technology such as video and audio.

Ms Ismail, English teacher at Spine Road High School has won the National Teaching Award for Excellence in Technology-Enhanced Teaching and Learning.

The Department of Basic Education held the 16th National Teaching Awards at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand on Saturday February 27.

Ms Ismail has been teaching for eight years. She has been teaching Grade 11 and matric English for four years at the school and has transformed her approach to teaching the subject by incorporating Information Communication Technology (ICT) in all aspects of the curriculum.

In Ms Ismail’s classroom there are 25 Apple laptops and a Smartboard where she teaches pupils research skills and make electronic resources available to them. This is where pupils are taught the skills to use creative software and to structure documents and presentations – software that also helps them with studying and note-taking.

Ms Ismail said she is overwhelmed by the news of the award.

“I feel blessed and I thank my Creator. I enjoy teaching and when I received the award it was a life-altering moment.

“I didn’t expect to win, but I am grateful.

“Five years ago the principal asked me where I see myself in five years, and my response was to make a mark in some way, which is strange, I have accomplished it. I am very passionate about my job and my pupils are amazing,” she said.

When asked about what makes her classroom “different” she said: “In my class pupils are exposed to a variety of learning materials such as audio reading, video lessons, analysis via the interactive board. We also have a classroom blog where I would develop materials for pupils.”

She said technology helps prepare pupils for their careers which will inevitably include the use of wireless technology and helps pupils stay engaged.

“Today’s pupils love technology so they are sure to be interested in learning if they can use the tools they love, so why not make it fun for them,” she said.

She has conducted workshops on ICT for the district office and has also conducted workshops for the Progressive Principals’ Association, focusing on the application of ICT in the classroom.

Riyaadh Najaar, principal of Spine Road High School, said the school is extremely happy about Ms Ismail’s award. He said she is a passionate and creative teacher.

“We were over the moon when we heard that Ms Ismail received the national award. The pupils and staff are proud of her as she enhances the quality of learning. These awards are usually given to schools in affluent areas that have more resources, so we are very happy,” he said.

Mr Najaar said the Apple computers were bought at a low price when a sponsor came on board a few years ago. He said the technology aspect excites pupils and makes them actively participate in lessons.

“The computers are amazing and pupils can use the internet from their phones or via wi-fi at school. We have future plans for the school, and are working on email addresses for each pupil so that their materials and school messages can be sent to them via email. We are also looking at getting notebooks for classes, so that teachers don’t have to work with papers,” he said.

Ms Ismail also initiated peer-tutoring programmes for her subject where stronger pupils assist the weaker ones. She makes extensive use of video technology to teach in class and uses technology as part of revision and assessment.

Debbie Schäfer, MEC for Education, said she is delighted at Ms Ismail’s success. She said Ms Ismail’s use of e-resources and technology-enhanced approach to the teaching of English has brought rich rewards to her and the school.

In 2013 the school received the award for the Most Improved in English Home Language and in 2014 the school received the highest average in English Home Language in Mitchell’s Plain. They also obtained the first 100% matric pass rate in Mitchell’s Plain in 2014.

“Ms Ismail provides an outstanding example of a teacher who is dedicated to ensuring that her pupils realise their potential. She provides an excellent example of a forward-looking teacher who understands the potential of using technology to enhance and support teaching and learning,” she said.

Ms Schäfer added that she has demonstrated powerfully the important role that teachers have to play in the lives of young people, and the role that technology can play in supporting their education.

“We also congratulate Spine Road High School for providing leadership in this field, by allowing Ms Ismail the freedom to experiment and develop best practice. The provincial government views e-learning as a game changer, and we are therefore investing heavily in providing access to e-learning across the province.

“We will learn from Ms Ismail’s example as we expand access to the future of education in this way,” she said.

Ms Schäfer said the Western Cape Education Department nominated Ms Ismail for the National Teaching Award after she won the top teaching award in this category in the province last year.