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Winning Mzansi Women: Interview with Preshanie Maharaj, Owner and Principal of Teddy Bears Montessori Pre-Primary School

Hellopeter

Aug 23, 2022 4:43:09 PM

As part of our #WinningMzansiWomen interview series spotlighting women doing remarkable things in different industries, we chatted to Preshanie Maharaj, School Owner and Principal of Teddy Bears Montessori Pre-Primary School.

Hellopeter: How did your journey as the owner of Teddy Bears Montessori Nursery School start? Did you always envision yourself starting a school?

Preshanie Maharaj: I heard about the Montessori teaching philosophy from a family member and fell in love with it immediately. It resonated with my values and outlook on life. Once I qualified, I did my teaching time at various schools in and around Johannesburg, inspiring me to dream up my own school. And it happened completely unexpectedly when I first opened our doors in July 2006 with one learner, and we gradually progressed to 25 children by December 2006. Teddy Bears Montessori grew by word of mouth, all thanks to many parents who valued and appreciated our services and referred family friends to us from near and far.

It has not been an easy journey managing a business and staff. Also, little people and their parents can be overwhelming at times. However, it helps to remind myself WHY I chose this career and all the things and people I'm so grateful to have had the pleasure of working with. Many of these children's families have moved overseas, and their children are thriving despite the change. Also, many of our learners who are much older now also still keep in touch.

It has been so rewarding to have Student Teachers from other renowned schools come to us to do their teaching time and congratulate and praise what we do in our school. They, too, notice the progress the children at Teddy Bears Montessori are making and feel a strong sense of calm, peace and joy within the environment and amongst the children and staff.

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On many occasions, our student teachers don't want to leave us. For that, we're so grateful and hope to continue our journey by positively impacting the lives of our children and their families to create a better South Africa and a better world, one learner and one family at a time.

HP: The role of ‘business owner’ and ‘principal’ historically used to be dominated by men. Do you see a strong shift toward more women in these roles?

PM: Most definitely, there are a lot more women coming forth and opening their own schools, as well as more women taking up posts as principals at schools and managing their work and home life pretty well.

HP: What has been your greatest success and biggest challenges in being an owner of the school and a female principal?

PM: My greatest success was when our school opened in 2006. It has been one remarkable journey of learning and growing, even failing in some areas but finding the resilience and courage to get back up again and push forward. It has been so rewarding to see parents with children with learning barriers walk through our doors feeling lost and helpless and then stay with us. And they work together with therapists to help their children grow, thrive, and overcome obstacles to enrol into primary school and succeed without reservations.

HP: What do you hope to see for the future generation of women principals and founders?

PM: I would love to see more women supporting and encouraging each other to share in this field. No two schools are the same. However, we can save time and energy in this demanding sector.

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HP: How much did leveraging online reviews help your school?

PM: It helped us see how much our services are valued and appreciated by our parents and their children. We tend to feel that we are not doing enough for the parents until we receive positive or even constructive feedback from them.

HP: Do you feel that reviews are especially important to help parents choose schools?

PM: Yes, I do. After all, as parents, we will be entrusting complete strangers to our children and family. Parents must have the opportunity to hear from other parents about their experiences with the schools they are looking at enrolling their children. After all, word-of-mouth advertising is the oldest form of advertising and promoting a business or service.

HP: Any advice for young women thinking about stepping into the principal role or starting their own schools?

PM: Trust yourself, believe in yourself cause nobody else will! Do the groundwork and gain experience at every level so that you can empathise with your staff. Love what you do daily and understand the huge responsibility that weighs on your shoulders each day a child walks through that gate. Most importantly, LOVE what you do so that it does not feel like work!

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