Cape teacher recognised globally for her contribution in education

Mariette Wheeler was chosen out of 7000 nominations. Picture: File

Mariette Wheeler was chosen out of 7000 nominations. Picture: File

Published Nov 4, 2023


A Cape Town teacher has been named as a top 10 finalist for the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2023, organised in collaboration with Unesco and a UAE-based global philanthropic organisation.

Dr Mariette Wheeler was selected from over 7 000 nominations and applications from 130 countries, where she may become the overall winner of a whopping R18.6 million, for her dedication and outstanding contribution in the teaching profession.

Wheeler, who currently teaches Life Sciences at Protea Heights Academy, in Brackenfell, trained as a biological scientist, where she combined her two main passions – biological research and teaching.

She also won the award for best teacher at the Department of Basic Education’s 2021 National Teaching Awards.

Wheeler was recognised for her unique way of engaging in peer discussions, class debates, charades-like competitions, and using the Quizziz app to learn complex scientific terms.

The teacher also offers up her spare time, outside the classroom, where she records monthly broadcasts on marine life for a local radio station listened to by around 400,000 people.

She will travel to Paris, France next week in the hope of winning the prize for every learner in the province and country.

She tells the Weekend Argus that she feels extremely honoured to be recognised.

“I did not expect this, I was merely doing my work, it wasn’t intentional. I believe in owning the ‘local is lekker feeling’ despite the challenges these kids face, because the difference starts at schools.

“If you educate one child they will go out and speak and inspire the next. That is how I always get learners who come back and tell me they are now studying for their masters degree at universities,” she says.

Wheeler says even if she doesn't get named as the overall winner, she will still take away from the experience.

“It's all about networking, learning how other teachers do it in other countries, sharing ideas, and using it to help shape and enhance teaching.

“You can’t teach in a silo, you need to be able to share your knowledge, no-matter where you find yourself, that is how you as a teacher also make a difference,” she says.

The Western Cape Education Department spokesperson Bronagh Hammond says Wheeler is one of eight teachers from South Africa who have made it to the Top 50 and Top 10 Global Teacher Prize Finalists history.

The WCED Minister, David Maynier, congratulated Wheeler on her achievement.

“It is a testament to the quality of teaching taking place in our province. Dr Wheeler serves our learners with distinction, and I wish her the very best for the announcement of the global winner in two weeks’ time,” Maynier said.

Education MEC David Maynier wished Dr Wheeler all of the best. Photographer: Armand Hough. African News Agency (ANA)

Weekend Argus