Montessori teacher ‒ a school closes its doors at year’s end
There are many wonderful teachers in this life who unselfishly dedicate their lives to serving a community in ways that can only be described as remarkable. These teachers more often than not, don’t seek the limelight and shy away from praise.
What makes them happy is to witness the growth and maturing of the young souls in their care and to celebrate their achievements with them in the challenges of life. They gently nurture the children that have been placed in their care by parents who have every hope that their children will grow up to be special and reach their full potential, as every child deserves to do.
Every community in South Africa probably has an example of such a person and Grahamstown is no exception. In 1986 a small, independent pre-school opened its doors to the Grahamstown community with six excited and bubbly three, four and five-year-olds bouncing through the front gate, ready to learn and explore. There to receive them was Antoinette van Winkel, the Directress of Timlin Montessori School.
Trained in Montessori Educational Philosophy through the London Montessori Teachers College, she had a specific mission: to follow in the footsteps of Maria Montessori, a physician, scientist and educator who during the early part of the 20th century in Italy, created a new awareness of the importance of understanding how children learn and to allow them the freedom to grow naturally through exploring.
Van Winkel believes passionately in the potential and joy of young learning minds and wanted to provide a dedicated, excellently equipped school for them where they could learn “in the loving way” during their early years. Her personal discovery and subsequent study of the Montessori Method helped her establish what has been a very successful and important educational institution in the Eastern Cape for the past 31 years.
She served on the regional committees for Montessori South Africa and has given of her time and knowledge to many teachers, students and parents promoting Montessori education. In 2009 she was one of the recipients of the Absa/Sowetan Provincial Award in acknowledgement of her contributions made as an Early Childhood Development Practitioner. Her carefully integrated approach of Montesssori educational philosophy made it a household name among educators in Grahamstown where she immersed herself in the teaching of three-six-year-olds providing a brilliant foundation for starting formal school. Her tireless caring for and loving of children, regardless of their specific needs and challenges, culture or nationality, is a testament to the life of Maria Montessori whose way of teaching has become widely accepted around the world.
In the early 1900s Montessori wrote: “… we discovered that education is not something which the teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being. It is not acquired by listening to words, but in virtue of experiences in which the child acts on his environment. The teacher’s task is not to talk, but to prepare and arrange a series of motives for cultural activity in a special environment made for the child. We then found that individual activity is the one factor that stimulates and produces development…”
Based on scientific observations of children from birth to adulthood, the Montessori Method has proved to be very successful in educating the whole child, something that Van Winkel believes in unequivocally. Above all else, Antoinette is an enthusiastic, inspiring and creative teacher, who lives through the experiences of each and every child in her care, finding stimulating new approaches to make learning a life-long joy, year after year giving of her skills unselfishly and with great love.
During the early years of teaching, she also voluntarily offered 10 years of support as a La Leche League Leader in the community, helping countless moms and babes get off to a great start in life. She is unashamedly proud of all “her children” and the supporting Timlin families and holds them in her heart. Dolly Tukulu joined her in 2009 as a full-time assistant together with the part-time services of enthusiastic and inspired teachers. She has drawn on the expertise of willing professionals in our community from scientists to artists to share their knowledge with young and eager minds.
Antoinette van Winkel retires from teaching at the end of this year when Timlin Montessori School will close its doors and an era will come to an end.
All the past children and parents of Timlin celebrate this remarkable woman who has contributed to the vital importance of early education for all our children here.