New head aims for balanced education

Athlone Park Primary School (APPS) is celebrating new beginnings with a new principal at the helm. After acting for more than two-and-a-half years, John Vorster was officially appointed as principal in March.

Vorster was born in Benoni in the 1960s. He started his schooling at Tom Newby Primary School and matriculated at Benoni High School. Although his dream was to become a pilot, he changed his mind during his matric year and pursued a career in teaching.

After qualifying with a Bachelor of Primary Education (cum laude) and an Honours degree in mathematics and educational management from Wits University, he went on to do two years of compulsory military training in Oudtshoorn, Kimberley and Polokwane. “Those were very volatile years – Mandela was still in prison, economic sanctions, states of emergency and the like, but it taught me self-discipline and respect for all human beings,” he said.

Vorster is married to Tracey, who is an HOD at Amanzimtoti Primary School, and they have three children – Melanie Slier (28) who is married to Travis, Belinda (26) and Raymond, also known as Freddy (23) who, like their parents, are all in the teaching profession.

READ ALSO: Amanzimtoti schools revert to character building

Vorster and his wife started their teaching careers at a boarding school in the far northern Transvaal called Lord Milner School. “In those days teaching was far less prescriptive and teachers could really be creative during the school day. There were far less demands on the children and far less peer pressure. There were no computers, no cellphones, no iPads and no interactive whiteboards but learning was fun and the children knew their bonds and tables off by heart. They could all read fluently, spell correctly and write beautifully,” said Vorster.

“Working in a hostel environment is extremely rewarding but being on duty 24/7 eventually takes its toll, especially when you have your own children to care for as well.”

In 1994 they moved back to Gauteng and Vorster spent 12 happy years at Benoni West School. During that time he was a maths, science and biology teacher, a head of department, deputy principal and principal from 2001 to 2005.

Their family goal was to spend 20 years teaching up-country and 20 years at the coast. They moved to Amanzimtoti in January 2006 and after a short stint at Amanzimtoti Primary School, he was promoted to HOD at APPS – taking charge of academics in the senior primary department, as well as the head of discipline, guidance and counselling. “The seven years that I spent as the school counsellor were definitely the most rewarding years of my teacher career.”

SEE ALSO: Athlone Park Primary School – first day in grade 1

In 2013 Vorster was promoted to deputy principal and worked closely with the previous principal Geoff Grenfell, who has been his greatest mentor and trusted colleague. Grenfell took early retirement in July 2015 and Vorster took over the reins in August that year.

After a demanding week, Vorster likes to unwind by reading and gardening which are two of his favourite hobbies but his greatest passion, besides teaching, is travelling. He has travelled extensively throughout the world and cruised on five of the seven seas. His next trip will be a three-week tour of Egypt, Israel and Jordan in December with his wife who always enjoys going along for the ride.

APPS still has a few more spaces available for children next year. To join its happy family in 2019, call Mrs Thompson on 031-904-1333.


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