Jana van Niekerk22 June 2023
Jana van Niekerk joined Curro Durbanville in 2004 as a high school student, following in the footsteps of her sister Sani. She immediately felt welcome and at home at the school. ‘I made such amazing friends,’ she said, ‘and I’m still friends with many of them today – 11 years after matriculating – while many people lose touch with their friends after matriculating.’
The small class sizes and interesting extramural activities allowed her to develop as an individual and realise her strengths. She fondly reminisces how Mrs Zietsman, her Economics teacher, Mrs Schmidt, her Mathematics teacher, and Mrs Hampton, her netball coach, inspired a passion for their fields within her that would shape her career years later. ‘I never thought that I would want to play netball, but my talent developed because of the individual attention and support from my teachers and coaches.’
After matriculating, she started studying Human Resource Management at Stellenbosch University. However, her interest in sports – netball in particular – was greater than her interest in HR. She played for Maties Netball during her time there and started coaching and umpiring netball at Somerset College in Somerset West. After becoming one of the College’s boarding house assistants, she started coaching their first netball team.
In 2014 she moved to Darling to be closer to her fiancé and decided to pursue her new-found love for teaching by studying education. ‘That way, I would be able to link my love for netball with my interest in Mathematics and Economics that was sparked by my high school teachers.’
In 2015, she started working at Hopefield High School while developing her career by umpiring at provincial level and playing for Moorreesburg’s first netball team. She happily returned to the Curro family in 2017 when she was appointed as Curro Langebaan’s head of netball and the coach of the first netball team.
During 2017 Jana’s husband decided to move to New Zealand for professional purposes. The farm he had been managing in South Africa did not have a clear career trajectory for him and New Zealand had a great need for Mathematics teachers – the choice was, therefore, clear for them. Everything fell in place quite quickly once their decision was made: He started working as a farm manager in New Zealand in February 2018 and she joined him in March 2018.
While finishing her degree she did odd jobs, such as being a teacher’s aide, and pursued her development as a netball umpire. In January 2019 she was appointed as a Mathematics teacher at Central Southland College, a secondary school in Winton. In the meantime, she also completed a qualification in netball umpiring and started coaching the first netball team for Linehill. ‘My goal is to get my New Zealand Umpiring qualification soon.’
Jana’s story shows how the attention and effort of a teacher can have a lasting effect on a learner’s life. Their inspiration allowed her to find her passions and left such deep footprints in her heart that she returned to their teachings, to her Curro family, and ultimately made a successful career of what had once been merely a hobby.
Her advice to learners is to enjoy the passion and support the teachers provide. ‘Curro is like a family that supports you and helps you develop, whatever your interests are.’