Teacher who knows all about special needs

07 July 2014 - 02:01 By Poppy Louw
NEVER GIVE UP: Sheri Brynard
NEVER GIVE UP: Sheri Brynard

Giving children with special needs the same opportunities she had is one of Sheri Brynard's biggest motivations as a teacher.

The 30-year-old from Bloemfontein made history when she became the first person in South Africa with Down's syndrome to qualify as a teacher.

In 2008, she became the first person with the syndrome to obtain a tertiary qualification - from Motheo FET College in Bloemfontein. She was also the first child with Down's syndrome, years before, to be admitted into a mainstream school.

Brynard said her favourite teacher, "Miss Sonja", helped her through what she believes would have been a "tougher time" at school.

Brynard said she had always dreamt of working with small children, especially because of the kind of challenges she faced growing up.

"My mom understood, but did not know exactly how to help me," said Brynard.

"A nursery school gave me a chance to work there, but two parents took their children out of the school because I had Down's syndrome and was working there."

The pre-school assistant teacher, whose favourite subjects were biology and drama, defied the odds, thanks to her parents, who played an active role in her getting an education.

It has been more than five years since Brynard qualified and the blonde-haired motivational speaker has learnt some valuable lessons about herself and her profession.

She said: "People should not give up too quickly when they are trying to help a child. Some children take longer to do things, and we have to be patient with them.

"If people had not helped me, I would not be able to do as much as I do now."

Brynard will join speakers and presenters at the African EduWeek 2014, to be held at the Sandton Convention Centre on Thursday and Friday.