Celebrating Teachers: A Profile of Dawn Petersen

Hanover Park principle, Dawn Petersen, says that the reality within our communities is that “our children are aligning themselves to gangs from an early age” but we cannot give up on our kids. Dawn did not give up on her kids, and for her hard work and dedication, she received the Excellence in Primary School Leadership award for the Metropole South and Metropole Central areas. She is the principle of Blomvlei Primary School.

Dawn, who is one of three children, was born and raised in Hanover Park and her family is well known in the area for the work that they do in the community. She attended St Raphaels Primary School, and matriculated from Immaculata High School in 1984. Four years later, she graduated from Hewitt Training College with a Higher Diploma in Education Foundation Phase.
In 1989 she started teaching Grades 2 and 3 at Duneside Primary School in Westridge, Mitchell’s Plain, and stayed there until 2006. A year later she joined Blomvlei Primary School.

Dawn has been at Blomvlei Primary School for nine years and says she wouldn’t have wanted anything different. Despite the difficulties that came with being a principle in an area surrounded by gangs, when she was offered the position, she took it immediately because she wanted to give back to the community she came from.
Before Dawn arrived, the school was declared dysfunctional and most people were negative about the school but she did not listen to those negative comments. She remained positive and worked hard to build relationships with the teachers and children. She makes sure that all her staff members feel special and she always tells the kids that this is their home away from home. “We are creating a safe space at our school for our children. I have been battling for years to get a bullet reflective fence put up at the school and it was finally erected last year. We want our kids to know that this is a space they can feel comfortable and safe in despite the reality they are faced with every day,” she says.
Partnering with a tourism organisation, Dawn also ensured the building of a multimillion rand eco-friendly library which is being used to enhance teaching and learning. She is currently looking for funding to employ a librarian next year so that the library can “remain a valuable resource tool for the teachers and learners”.
She is also “eternally grateful for the volunteers in the walking bus project” who walks with the kids after school to make sure they get home safe.

Recently, the school held its annual grandparents’ appreciation day. “We place a lot of emphasis on showing appreciation for our pupils and staff with small awards for things they do just to show them they are appreciated. The grandparents’ appreciation day is an extension of that. We treat the grandparents who take care of children who have either been abandoned by their parents or whose parents are drug addicts or imprisoned,” Dawn explains. “We take the time to say thank you to them for taking up the baton to take care of their grandchildren. This initiative has survived solely on the goodwill of individuals who donate goods to make the day successful.”

Main Source: News24 (Edited from an article written by Chevon Booysen)
Additional Sources: IOL (excerpts from an article written by Nabeelah Mohedeen)
Photo credit: IOL