Mishael Tafadzwa Matonhodze is now South Africa’s top Mathematics teacher.
The Witbank High School teacher scooped the National Teaching Award for Excellence in Teaching Mathematics at the awards ceremony held at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg on Saturday.
She walked away with a brand-new Renault Kwid and a cash prize of R5000.
Speaking to Inside Education, Matonhodze said she was overwhelmed with joy and excitement and that it was through God’s grace she won the award.
“I am honoured and flattered because when I do what I do every day, to me this is normal, I did not think it was anything exceptional until they said to me what you are doing is exceptional, and I really feel honoured by it, humbled and grateful to them for recognising what I myself could not see,” said Matonhodze.
“I feel very much blessed and the grace of God is really sufficient.”
Matonhodze, who started her teaching career in Zimbabwe for two years before she could return to teach in South Africa, has been teaching for 11 years.
She studied a BSc degree as her initial dream was to become a doctor, however, that dream soon took a turn in a different direction after she realised she was too sensitive to bear looking after ill patients.
Matonhodze said she was glad she chose to teach as her profession because she finds it fulfilling.
When asked how she managed to teach a subject viewed by many as difficult, Matonhodze said that it all depended on the manner in which a teacher approached the subject.
Matonhodze said negativity affects how learners view the subject.
“I convince my learners that mathematics is not difficult because everything you do is mathematics. I show them that you need it for the simplest things that you are doing like sport. And when they realise how much Maths is in their everyday lives, they get motivated to learn the subject,” said Matonhodze.
She also said that she conducted one on one sessions with her learners to help her bring those who are running behind up to speed. She also carries out group discussions where learners are able to help each other understand the school work better.
When it comes to ill-disciplined learners, Motonhodze puts learners through detention where they study and submit work for marking.
She also works with other teachers in her neighbourhood to share their different skills and techniques on teaching maths, through a programme called “1+4”.
“We have a programme called 1+4 where we iron out the misconception about maths, we share our experiences while teaching and how we deal with various issues about the subject,” said Matonhodze.
The best advice that Matonhodze could give to her fellow educators is to approach the subject with a positive attitude.
“My advice to the upcoming teachers is that you’ve made the right decision, run on with it. To the class, take with you the right attitude, humanity because you have influence, be disciplined to lay your expectations to learners but be humble enough to engage with you on a personal level so that they may open to you and you may better help them,” said Matonhodze.
Siphesihle Mabaso from Asibemunye High School in KwaZulu-Natal was placed second in the Mathematics category and Francois Nicholas Bischoff from the High School for Girls Potchefstroom in the North West was placed third.