AQUA Vista Primary School principal Victor Schmidlin is retiring and closing this chapter of his life on a high note after 23 years in the post.
He joined the school in 1994 with only 108 pupils enrolled, and began the school’s road to transformation under a new democracy.
The school has flourished under his guidance, growing to more than 400 pupils, and a highlight is being able to showcase a phenomenal music department.
Things have not always been easy, with financial constraints preventing the school from offering a decent sporting programme and the kind of facilities that are enjoyed by former Model C schools across the city.
“To be able to offer children a balanced education with limited funds was a serious challenge. To overcome that challenge has been a massive achievement for staff,” Schmidlin said.
He believes it is the school’s 12- member staff team that has helped the school sustain itself under the toughest of circumstances.
“We really are a family at Aqua Vista. The staff love and support one another and the children are so receptive to learning new things. Parents really appreciate all the school does,” he said.
“Walking from my car to my office every morning takes about 10 minutes because I walk past the Little Nemos [Grade 0] and then the Grade Rs and older children, and everyone loves to hug and greet me and share a story. Every day serving here has been an absolute privilege,” Schmidlin said.
He said it had been a great joy to see pupils being given the opportunity to visit Johannesburg through their involvement in music (after never having set foot outside the city before), while others had experienced a trip overseas, thanks to kind donations from sponsors.
Reflecting on what he had learned through his job, Schmidlin said: “Most of all, I have learned to be humble. Everything comes through God and teamwork. The ‘I can handle this’ attitude will not work.
“You need to listen to others and sometimes their ideas are better than yours. I have also learned patience and that everything comes in its own time.”
Head of department Adele Ziemann said Schmidlin was a caring and compassionate principal who treated staff as family and always stayed humble.
“He is now 60 and he believes it’s time to retire,” she said.
Schmidlin said: “It’s always best to leave on a high. It’s time to move on to experience something else.”
He hopes to spend more time camping, doing woodwork, restoring old furniture, fishing and fixing up his home. He will hand over the reins to Andelene Ross, who will serve as acting principal until the position is filled.
Ross said: “I look forward to the new challenge of building on what Mr Schmidlin has started. I will really miss him as someone to talk to and a safety net. He is always so calm and I will definitely keep him on speed dial.