By Sharlotte Magwa 

2020 has been touted as a year that will echo throughout history for the centuries to come. Often being described in negative terms, it comes as a surprise to others to hear me say that it was possibly one of the best years of my life. I say that because it was the same year that I found my passion and purpose for teaching. In January 2020, I began teaching English online full time for an international school. I had just experienced what I considered the hardest year of my life, and after completing a difficult postgraduate degree, I was taking a short hiatus from academia. 

The Jakes Gerwel Fellowship opportunity was advertised and the life changing question, “Who was your favourite teacher, and why?”helped lead me to the resolution that teaching wasn’t just something I enjoyed but rather a passion that offers a life of fulfilment and happiness. 

I’ll admit that I was quite indifferent to the teaching profession; online teaching was a means to an end until I could enrol next year to the linguistics master’s program. I hadn’t taken the time to think about how teaching has impacted my life, or even how in my capacity as a teacher was impacting the lives of my  students. In each lesson I met a different person, who possessed in some way potential to learn and gain understanding. It was through reflection that I was able to use those aspects of each person to help them reach it. It was reflection that helped me understand the power of my own ability; the necessity to share that ability in helping improve the South African education system. 

[Additional Information] I was curious as a child, the library was my safe space and writing was always a mesmerising experience so naturally I fell in love with language, with the English language. I also knew that I wanted to serve, to give back and share in my knowledge and understanding as well as helping others reach that same confidence and opportunity to learn and gain knowledge and understanding. I studied Linguistics; learning about the intricacies of language and how it shapes us, and our world and it was through teaching to others how to use the underestimated power to communicate. 

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