Liaan Ackerman13 June 2023
Liaan Ackerman’s journey has a unique symmetry. She saw first-hand how Curro laid its first cornerstones and watched it grow into a great school to which she recently returned as a teacher. ‘The school’s legacy is so exceptional,’ she said, ‘that learners and teachers return to the school to say hello or to enrol their children – they want to stay in the Curro family.’
Liaan was part of the Curro family even before she joined Curro Durbanville in Grade 4. As the daughter of one of the founding fathers, Eduard ‘Boetie’ Ungerer, she had a front-seat view – literally – of how the directors drove the first learners to and from school (which was held in a church at the time) in the dark blue Curro shuttles. At the end of Grade 3, Curro Durbanville’s school building – the current primary school building – had just been built and she jumped at her father’s offer to join the school.
‘From the first day, I was happy there,’ she remembers. ‘I fit in very well with the small classes, personal attention from teachers and family-feeling.’ The day before school started, the daughter of one of her father’s friends called her, exclaiming how much she looks forward to meeting Liaan and how they will surely be great friends. ‘She was right,’ Liaan said, ‘we are still close friends.’
The school didn’t have the facilities to offer mainstream sports at the time, so they focused on innovative, fun activities. ‘They were able to take chances on new and unheard-of activities,’ Liaan said, ‘because the school was so small and everyone would take part.’
One of these innovative activities was the summer sizzle social of 2003 that started with the school trying to beat the Guinness World Record of the largest box of popcorn – during school time. The teachers had built a giant popcorn box in the school’s foyer which stretches across two floors of the building. The box went up to the second floor’s railing and had plastic peepholes that showed how far it had been filled. ‘Each class had a scheduled time during which they had to make popcorn in the classroom,’ she remembers. ‘You were either a “popper” or a “runner” and during your class’s scheduled time you had to run as fast as we could to fill the box.’ That evening there was a great social with a dance floor, braai area, water slides and many fun activities – the learners even performed a choreographed dance.
Liaan was elected head girl in her matric year and fondly remembers an emotional moment at the matric farewell. The head boy and head girl traditionally open the dance floor, but instead of dancing with her date she chose to dance with her father – the man who had started her journey at Curro, along with the journey of so many others. ‘I am a laatlammetjie and have always feared not having my dad at the big moments in my life,’ she said. ‘Dancing with him at my matric farewell was a deeply personal and emotional experience for me.’
After matriculating, she studied BSc Human Life Sciences with Psychology, followed by a Postgraduate Certificate in Education. She taught at Curro Hermanus for two years and then moved to academic content editing at Pearson South Africa for six months. She greatly enjoyed working with content and being exposed to greater fields of learning, but missed working with children, which is her great passion. Therefore, after working at an outdoor holiday camp in Hong Kong for some time, she returned to South Africa and started working at Curro Durbanville. She even found the time to get married in 2018.
Liaan feels like Curro Durbanville is a second home for her, as its halls are littered with memories and personal heritage. She is constantly remembered of the school’s humble beginnings and the role her father played in its establishment: the tuck shop reminds her of how she used to run to his office to get money for a chicken-mayo sandwich; the hallways often take her past his former office; the hall has a plaque with his name as a founder. ‘It’s great to be part of that history,’ she said.
Her advice to current learners is to participate in everything they can, whether competing or watching and support from the stands. ‘When you participate in activities, you build a relationship with your classmates and teachers in a way that is not possible during class,’ she said. ‘Also, the chances of winning or taking part in a final is that much greater because the Curro schools don’t have thousands of learners and the attention you get from coaches or tutors is that much greater.’
Liaan hopes to inspire and guide her learners the way her teachers inspired and guided her. ‘My teachers were always willing to spend extra time with their learners, and to give us extra work and attention when we needed it.’ She hopes to honour her teachers, her father, and her school by giving her best and continuing the story. ‘I am grateful for being part of this amazing legacy.’