'There is no greater feeling than knowing I made a difference': William Smith

02 May 2019 - 07:50 By Cebelihle Bhengu
William Smith evoked all the feels after getting his National Order.
William Smith evoked all the feels after getting his National Order.
Image: Twitter/@GCISMedia

Veteran physics, maths and chemistry teacher William Smith said he was amazed by the love he had received from thousands of South Africans who had conveyed their gratitude for his contribution to their academic success. Smith, who taught mathematics on television for almost 16 years, received the Order of the Baobab last week for his contribution to teaching the subject.

“I feel amazed. There is no greater feeling than having people who have been out of school for years thanking me for contributing to their success. Yes I taught them, but they took my lessons and well done to them.”

Smith said when the idea of teaching the subject live on television was pitched to the public broadcaster it was initially met with some resistance because it had never been done before. “We were among the first to teach live and the SABC was scared of the possibility of such a programme failing. Our first broadcast must have been in 1990 and we went on for almost 16 years, reaching as many as 100 million viewers a day across Africa.”

On his ability to make pupils understand and fall in love with maths, Smith attributed this to pursuing his calling to teach. “Teachers aren’t made, they are born. You can take someone who was born to teach and make them better, but you can’t do much with someone who doesn’t have it in them to teach.”

He said his fun way of teaching also played a huge role in getting his pupils to not only love the subject, but to pass it as well. Smith said it was important for him to use real-life examples that his students would remember long after lessons, and apply them correctly.

Smith is now retired and has since moved to Australia, where he lives and spends time with his family, something he said he did not do much in the years in which he taught.

On teaching, he said he was happy to see younger teachers continuing the work.

“There is such a huge gap between myself and the current generation, so the younger teachers must continue the work. I am now slowing down and am spending my time with my family, my grandchildren, playing Sudoku and traveling all over the world.”


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