Keller Education – A critical partnership for a new education methodology and Journey of Learning and Collaboration at Melkbosstrand Private School

A Unique Blend of Values and Vision

We’re excited to celebrate the fourth anniversary of our partnership with Melkbos Private School (MPS). Keller Education was founded in 2020 by Gavin Keller and two accomplished businessmen. Gavin has an extensive background in education, spanning over 40 years, nearly 30 of which he spent as the principal of a high-profile school in Cape Town.

This school, widely recognized for its focus on nurturing emotional intelligence as well as its impact on lifelong success, was honoured as an Ashoka Changemaker organisation. Keller Education’s approach is grounded in the belief that the ‘how’ of teaching is just as crucial as the ‘what’ – the curriculum itself. By understanding how the brain functions, how emotions influence learning, and how students learn most effectively, teachers can help children excel not only in school but also in life.  Thus, preparing them for future challenges beyond mere exams.

Now, Gavin and his team of exceptional educators, school leaders and business specialists are reimagining the face of education across the African continent.

Enter MPS! Since 2020, this collaboration has been a testament to our shared commitment to excellence in education.  Also, focusing on what makes MPS stand out: its core values of relationship, connection, family, and raising and releasing the ‘#ChangeMakers’ of the future.

Creating a Culture of Continuous Professional Growth

Professional development for educators remains a cornerstone of Keller’s mission, emphasising the importance of ongoing learning—a value often overlooked even in the highest-performing schools across the continent. Our methodology, inspired by the influential research of Prof. John Hattie, concentrates on strategies that have the most significant impact on educational effectiveness.

Key Elements of Our Successful Partnership

1. Relevance to Teachers’ Needs:

At MPS, we’ve tailored our themes to address the unique challenges and contexts the educators face. Annually, MPS staff select age-specific, need-based themes.  These themes not only enhance their teaching strategies but also resonate deeply with their students, thus making learning both relevant and meaningful.

2. Collaboration Across the Board:

Over the past four years, we’ve created an environment where teachers from the various school faculties — early childhood (NSA), primary (MPS Primary), and high school (MPS high) — can collaborate and share best practices. This effort includes forming a ‘Keller Champion’ group and conducting regular coaching sessions, enhancing skills such as conflict and change management.

3. Sustainability and Duration of Engagement:

At Keller we believe in the power of ongoing professional development over one-off sessions. Our sustained engagements have visibly impacted not just the educators but also the students and the broader school environment. Walking through MPS, it’s evident in the vibrant classroom dynamics and the strong emotional intelligence displayed across the community.

Moreover, when you visit MPS, one is immediately struck by:

  • The incredible family-like atmosphere that envelops the school.
  • How eagerly students seek out challenges, demonstrate resilience, and solve problems.
  • The high level of emotional intelligence displayed by both educators and students.
  • The deep understanding teachers have of their students, recognizing their challenges, talents, skills, concerns, sadness, and personal hardships.
  • The confidence with which children make eye contact and greet adults, showing maturity and respect.
  • The engaging and interactive design of the classrooms.
  • The prioritisation of play in the classroom, especially noticeable in Noah’s Ark where it is an integral part of learning.
  • The adoption of a world-leading Integrated Thematic Approach in the primary school, which shifts focus from traditional subjects to theme-based learning that incorporates essential skills from various disciplines, aligning with how the brain processes information through categories, relationships, order, patterns, and symbols. This approach is highly celebrated by teachers.
  • The high school teachers’ commitment to a nurturing environment where personalised coaching helps each student not just excel academically but also prepare for life, emphasising long-term success over short-term achievements.

 4. Active Learning:

One thing the MPS staff have come to know is that any session with Keller Education is bound to involve activity, movement, and sometimes even dancing. Eyebrows were raised the moment we first stepped into the building! Staff were asked to stand up, pair off, and prepare to follow the steps to a dance.

Four years on, it’s become a part of the culture. The philosophy is straightforward: how can we expect our students to step out of their comfort zones if we, as educators, aren’t willing to do the same? How can we expect children to take risks if we refuse to stand up and laugh at ourselves? Education is like theatre. It’s about delivering a performance that not only engages an audience but also inspires them to become the best versions of themselves.

Tangible Impacts

The impact of our partnership is visible in the exceptional school environment at MPS.  From the family-like atmosphere to the innovative teaching strategies like the Integrated Thematic Approach used in primary education. This method encourages learning through interconnected themes rather than isolated subjects, fostering a holistic understanding in students.

We are particularly proud of initiatives such as prioritising play, body readiness and the high Five Kids Programme in learning areas like Noah’s Ark. Also, the nurturing approach taken by high school teachers, preparing students not just for academic success but for life.

“The Keller methodology has not only transformed our teaching approach at MPS but has also enriched the culture of our school. By prioritising student-centred learning, we’ve seen a remarkable shift in motivation, engagement, and overall academic growth among our learners. Learning through play in the pre-primary and foundation phase lays the cornerstone for a lifetime of curiosity, creativity and critical thinking,” says Antoinette Gauche, head of ECD and Foundation phase at MPS.

Looking Ahead to future excellence

As we move forward, we are thrilled to have MPS head of Intermediate, Senior and FET phases, Allan Norton, join us as a panellist at the upcoming Keller Education IMPACT Seminar in Stellenbosch. This event promises to further our dialogue on educational innovation and impact in a Generative AI world.

“2020 was the year we were forced to view the world from behind a surgical mask. At MPS however, the Covid Pandemic presented the opportunity for us to plot a new course.  Or, as Gavin Keller calls it, “to reimagine schooling.” It saw us remove the proverbial mask of standardised education in South Africa and make a paradigm shift to partner with Keller Education,” says Allan.

“MPS has since adopted this model of education.  Where caring and harnessing the individual’s needs and strengths becomes paramount and enjoys precedence over a child’s academic performance. With that being said, we have found that our students excel academically.  This is not necessarily because they are superiorly gifted, but rather because we place a high premium on their emotional wellbeing,” he concluded.

Working with Melkbos Private School has been a privilege. We look forward to continuing this partnership, pushing the boundaries of educational excellence, and reaffirming MPS’s status as a leading school in South Africa. Here’s to another four years of growth, collaboration, and change-making!

– Brad Keller, CEO Keller Education