Denise Erasmus has been the principal at Llandudno Primary School for almost two decades and she has now decided to take early retirement.
Over recent years, she has expanded and improved the school in many ways, including renovating the library and the media centre, installing an Astroturf and starting the music department.
Ms Erasmus says the school dates back to 1953 when Llandudno residents asked the government education department of the time to provide school facilities in the valley. With fewer than 10 children, the department denied this, so parents set up a school in the servant quarters of a Bosman Avenue house. It was unofficially opened on January 20, 1954, with nine children. After the department agreed to establish a farm school, it moved to a house in Maori Road in January 1955.
Three years later, Llandudno Estates, which developed the suburb, allocated land for the school and the department erected a pre-fabricated building consisting of one classroom, an office, a storeroom and toilet facilities.
Ms Erasmus says all grades took place in the one classroom and swimming lessons were held in a neighbour’s pool. At that time, there was a forest where the playing field is today. The uniform was bright yellow for the girls and stone-coloured shirts and navy shorts for the boys.
Today the school has 214 pupils from Grade R to 7. The girls now wear tartan skirts with navy golf shirts while the boys wear navy shirts and shorts.
Brick-and-mortar buildings have replaced the prefab ones and the school now boasts a swimming pool and a hall.
Ms Erasmus recalls how children used to come to school barefoot carrying surfboards and were sometimes accompanied by their dogs. These could be a nuisance when trying to play games on the sports field but were much loved by all, she says.
Ms Erasmus says as a child her first dream was to become a mother, and, secondly a teacher. She would teach her dolls.
She worked at a Lansdowne school from 1984 to 1990 and joined Llandudno Primary in 1992. She started teaching Grade 6, then Grade 7 before becoming the principal in 2005.
Ms Erasmus says the children are very sporty, especially enjoying water sports. The pupils recently returned from a Knysna water polo tour. The school also has a good relationship with the neighbouring sports club where children do tennis, squash and netball.
As for her future, Ms Erasmus says it’s time to slow down. She is due to leave the school at the end of the year and is looking forward to exploring the Garden Route, paddling, cycling and hiking along the way. She also wants to read more, and possibly take up the piano again. Ms Erasmus says she enjoys mentoring new teachers and coaching public speaking.
As she leaves the school she says she feels heartsore as Llandudno has become her second home and the children are like her own.
“It’s been such a happy and fulfilling time made more rewarding working with such loyal and special long-time colleagues like Greg Trumble, Angela Mihal, Heather Pearson, Libby Bailey, Susan Beukes and Liza Kuhn. It’s going to be very hard to say goodbye to not only a long career but a lifetime in education. Thank you so much Llandudno for the joy you’ve brought me over all these years.”