for tomorrow

NMMU News

21/09/2015

As Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University lecturer Cheryl Schroder was about to invigilate an exam, she came across a panicky student who couldn’t find his name on the list. She helped him find out where he should have been, gave him a lift in her car as the venue was on another campus, and even walked in with him – to ensure he was allowed in despite being late.She turned a student’s worst nightmare into a situation of calm, and enabled him to have a good start to his exam.

The student later tracked her down to thank her, telling her: “I didn’t feel like I was riding around with a lecturer. I felt like I was riding around with a mom.”

Schroder’s warm approach as a lecturer – both in and out the classroom – makes a huge difference to those she teaches, and led to her winning one of two NMMU Excellent Teacher of the Year awards.

“I care and I’m interested ... It’s a privilege to be in this position and to make a difference in someone’s life. Lecturers forget that: you can make or break a person.”

Her prestigious win comes not long after she received the Golden Key Society lecturer of the year award in her faculty. “These awards are totally chosen by the students – it was very touching.”

Schroder lectures Information Systems 2 (software development) to second-year students and supervises third and fourth-year students’ software design projects.

From the time she was a young girl, she knew she wanted to teach. From observing her own teachers and lecturers, the best and the worst of them, she learned that “excellent teachers have to be passionate about their subjects and strive to instil the same passion in their students”.

“I’ve been teaching for 30 years – and I haven’t lost my passion for teaching.

“Excellent teachers also have to establish a positive class atmosphere by investing time in building a rapport with their students and encouraging active class participation. Unless there is a climate of mutual respect in the classroom, students will be reluctant to ask questions and contribute to any discussions.”

She views herself mainly as a facilitator of learning, rather than as an expert who simply delivers information to the students.  “When planning a subject’s curriculum or interacting with students, I am always mindful of their different backgrounds and learning styles, what they have already learned and what they will need in the future.”

She has an open door policy, and makes herself available to the students, to pop in for work-related or personal problems, or even just for a hug. “My experience as a teacher is greatly enriched by this interpersonal contact with students.”

She is a big believer in “paying it forward” and was moved to hear that second and third-year ICT students, of their own volition, were giving up their spare time to give extra lessons, free of charge, to students needing help.

“This is the kind of student we’re seeing – it’s very encouraging. As the School of ICT, we’re doing something right.”

Born and raised in Port Elizabeth, Schroder attended Westering High and then completed a BSc (Computer Science) at the former University of Port Elizabeth (now NMMU). She worked for City Treasury for three years to pay off a bursary, before spending a year backpacking overseas.

Upon her return, it wasn’t long before she applied for a job as a lecturer at the former Port Elizabeth Technikon. Thirty years later, and now a senior lecturer in the School of ICT at NMMU with a master’s degree, she has never looked back.

She is married to Colin, who is involved in establishing solar energy farms, and has two children, Morgan, 18, and Kendyl, 13. 

Contact information
Ms Roslyn Baatjies
Media Liaison Practitioner
Tel: 041-5042777
roslyn.baatjies@nmmu.ac.za