Getting to know what inspired our founder Janice Breetzke

Finding affordable, good, quality education in the Hillcrest area was a challenge not too long ago. In fact, this is how our Founder and Executive Head of Hillcrest Collegiate, Janice Breetzke, started her journey. She found plenty of great top-rated schools like Kearsney College and Curro Hillcrest in the area, but they were unaffordable to the average family. In addition to this, her daughter was struggling in mainstream schooling and as an educator she wanted to find a good primary school in Hillcrest where Megan would thrive as an individual and reach her full potential. Janice knew that the right school environment was essential to getting her daughter back on the right track. This fuelled her determination to find the same quality of education that these excellent schools provided! Unable to find what she was looking for, she established MTTC, My Tutor and Teaching Centre, a fledgling primary and high school in Hillcrest. She had no regrets when she saw the results that her daughter and other learners produced. Within the supportive environment of the small school, they found a safe space to thrive.

The school quickly built a good reputation in the community. Educational psychologists, Occupational therapists, educational stakeholders and other local schools started referring learners to them. The school grew and rebranded as Hillcrest Collegiate. They are registered with the Department of Education as a private independent school and are accredited by education monitoring bodies SACAI and Umalusi.  They have been forerunners in setting the standard for educational excellence countrywide. Hillcrest Collegiate was placed third countrywide with SACAI for achieving the highest number of distinctions per subject (amongst 450 schools and centres registered with SACAI ) in 2020. These great results together with excellent teachers, support staff and learners, has made Hillcrest Collegiate a school that attracts high achievers as well as kids who need a little more help to find their true path.

So the question on my mind is: what makes a school and learners excel? What exactly do parents need to look for if they want the best education for their child?

In my attempt to find out what made Hillcrest College achieve success of the bat, I chatted to Janice about her journey to finding the secrets to quality education and how she implements it at Hillcrest Collegiate.

A qualified educator, Janice says that there are so many good private schools in Kloof and Hillcrest and she always took inspiration from them in her classes. Her goal is to continue doing this, and for Hillcrest Collegiate to always deliver the best quality, affordable education in Hillcrest. She imagined a school where kids are nurtured to excellence. In order to achieve this, she and her dedicated team are always keeping up with the latest recourses within the educational sector. They also regularly consult with a team of experienced professionals, including educational psychologists and occupational therapists. This helps the school to achieve excellent outcomes with all their learners as well as kids who struggle in mainstream schools.

While we chatted, she pointed out some of the most important criteria she found was essential to the maintenance of a good school.

  1. A good school should be adaptable. A good school is capable of meeting challenges in the environment and society positively. Hillcrest Collegiate was tested during lockdown and had to go online. The school ran a supportive school day that proved successful – learners achieved great results.
  2. A good school builds quality relationships between learners, staff and parents. For example, at Waterfall College Hillcrest, their ethos is a commitment to building personal relationships between students, teachers and parents. Janice was inspired by this and makes developing good relationships an essential part of the culture at Hillcrest Collegiate as well.
  3. A good school prioritizes every learner as an individual. Teachers and staff will take the time to understand the learner and motivate accordingly. Like other good schools in the Hillcrest area, Janice and her team encourage a growth mindset at the school. Janice found that being passionate about every learner growing to their best potential was the magic ingredient. By beginning with this goal in mind, learner success follows. When a school works on an individual level, learners and their families feel understood and safe at school and the learner can thrive.
  4. A good school is aware of community. Janice found that having a small school gave Hillcrest Collegiate a sense of a family that belonged within a community. This teaches learners to work together and to find their space in their community. These are valuable life skills that every good school should encourage.
  5. A good school teaches learners to ‘think and do’ and not just learn content. This was an important consideration for Janice. Many established schools focus on content and academic results without prioritizing the most fundamental purpose of teaching- to teach leaners to think and live well.
  6. A good school encourages creativity and leadership. It is important for a school to give learners a degree of agency so they can express themselves within healthy parameters set by school management.
  7. A good school procures the best teaching and non-teaching staff as well as recourses to create an excellent place of learning and growth. Janice found that doing this from the start established the early success of Hillcrest Collegiate and ensured it continues to grow. A good school is always built on the passion and inspiration of great teachers and staff.
  8. A good school maintains a ‘clean’ environment. Janice learnt that it is essential to be strict about keeping a school drug and bully free. It is far too easy in larger schools for these issues to run rife. Consistently monitoring the school for any signs of bad habits creeping in is vital to a healthy and wholesome school environment. The smaller classes at Hillcrest Collegiate helps this purpose as teachers spend more individual time with learners.

So there you have it, while this is by no means a comprehensive list, it does help to know what to be aware of if you are looking for good schools in Hillcrest, KZN.