SCCT Volunteer Series: Natalie Oelfzee

Natalie is a volunteer at the Scalabrini English School. When she is not volunteering at the school, teaching English classes to foreign nationals, she works as a full-time waitress. Her goal is to teach primary school children and she says her volunteering experience at the Scalabrini English school is contributing to that goal.  Below we find out more about Natalie.

Where are you from and what is your field of interest?

I was originally born and bred in the Free State province. I’ve been living in Cape Town for the past eight years. Currently, I work as a waitress on a full-time basis as an income generating source. In my free time, I teach English, level 4B on a volunteer basis at the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town.

What were you doing before volunteering at the Scalabrini Centre?

I’ve been a waitress all my adult life, that’s how I earn an income.

How did you find out about the Scalabrini Centre? What made you choose to volunteer at the Scalabrini Centre?

A friend shared a post about volunteering, and because I have always loved teaching from a very young age, and I am exploring the idea of teaching abroad, Scalabrini has been the perfect fit for me in terms of honing this skill. My time here has shown me that I am actually capable of teaching – the Centre and my experience here has shown me that I have it in me – I have surprised myself and that gives me the motivation to keep going.

What have you learned since joining the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town?

Since I started out, I’ve learned a lot about myself, one thing for sure is that I am passionate about teaching and good at it. I sometimes surprise myself because of the positive feedback I receive from the students. In my first few classes, I was extremely insecure and nervous. I wasn’t sure I could actually do it. But when I compare that first class to my classes now, I’ve since discovered that I can do it, and do it well. This opportunity has given me a lot of motivation. I am motivated to try other things now – things I thought I was incapable of accomplishing. Being a waitress all my adult life, I really struggled figuring out what my other options were. I now know I can adapt, take something on and be good at it.

Have you experienced challenges with your students and what is your approach to overcoming them?

I’ve made mistakes but that’s just also been a learning process – figuring out what works and what doesn’t work. It helps you to know in the future that certain strategies work and some just don’t work with students. Also, you must understand that you’re sitting in the classroom with different personalities, and everybody has different needs and expectations. You as the teacher must learn to adapt and build a relationship with each one of your students. The longer you teach the students, the more you understand each individual and you’re able to meet them halfway.

Did you experience any Culture shock as a volunteer integrating into the Scalabrini Centre?

I did not experience any culture shock integrating into the Centre at all. My other work allows me to work and interact with people from all around the African content and from all around the world as well.

 What qualities does one need to have to work in an environment such as this one?

In order to do well in the field, you need to be relatable, that is a very big part of the job. You must understand that everybody is different, different learning levels and different personalities. You must always try to see the good in people. It helps to look at someone and see something good in them, their essence and being.

How has your position at the Scalabrini Centre helped you grow both professionally and personally?

I find it extremely fulfilling working here because I’m doing something meaningful with my life, and helping people. Working as a waitress is means for me to earn an income, there is nothing meaningful about it. Knowing that I’m helping people is enriching to me as an individual. I had no confidence in myself and now I feel way more confident, I like the impact I’m making on other people’s lives and the impact the people I teach have on mine.

Describe a perfect day on the job.

A perfect day on the job for me are days when we leave class and everyone is in high spirits because the lesson was interesting and everyone was partaking in the activities. Classes where I’m entertaining the students and they’re entertaining me back is a perfect day on the job for me.

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Would you recommend friends to come volunteer at the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town and why?

Definitely! I would recommend the place to everyone with the capability of volunteering. People with a keen interest in volunteering should definitely come here. It’s the perfect place to volunteer and do meaningful work.

Future Plans

I’m interested in tutoring primary school kids and help them out with maths and Afrikaans lessons. I know there are many children out there who need help with their studies. Tutoring primary school children is the next plan for me.

 

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