2003• Education Award

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Denese began her career in education teaching students with special needs.

Since then, she has worked in a diverse variety of learning environments in the classroom, the school, the school board and on assignments for the Ministry of Education across Ontario and internationally. Currently, she is a Coordinating Superintendent with the York Region District School Board.

As an educator who firmly believes that a true democracy must be founded on a strong public education system, Denese has been committed to improving the learning opportunities for all students throughout her career. She has come to recognize the importance of the significant individuals – in and out of school – in the lives of those students and their learning. In our complex and fast changing world environment, Denese appreciates that it truly does ‘take a village to raise a child’.

Born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, Denese graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand with a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in sociology and psychology. Upon immigrating to Canada, Denese obtained a Bachelor of Education and entered the education system as a teacher.

She was challenged by those students who were not meeting their potential and who were at risk of not being successful in school.


Supported by her school board, she successfully implemented a program designed to meet their specific learning needs. After completing a master’s degree and her principal’s qualifications, Denese spent four years as an administrator in elementary and secondary schools.

Building on her interest in the complicated nature of the school system as a learning organization, Denese obtained her Supervisory Officer qualifications and took a position with the Ministry of Education where she worked with school boards across the province and inspected private secondary schools.

At the ministry, she was extensively involved in policy clarification and facilitated the provision of leadership training for staff. Together with key education partners, she developed an implementation model for reform initiatives and co-ordinated the preparation of training packages to support the implementation of these policies.

She was involved in the refinement and validation of the Ministry’s curriculum assessment policy and implementation of elementary and secondary curriculum including the preparation of implementation training materials to support teachers in the field.

While at the ministry, Denese was involved in the CIDA/South Africa education project, which provided support for the development of the new South Africa’s curriculum policy. In the course of this role, Denese led a team of Canadian educators to work in Pretoria with key staff in the South African Education Department.

Denese has been invited to speak to the education community on the topics of leadership development, school and student improvement and the management of change.

As a lifelong learner, she recognizes the importance of keeping in touch with current research trends and issues. Currently, she is engaged in doctoral study.

She continues to encourage teacher-mentoring projects and teacher exchanges to South Africa and remains a committed advocate for the powerful benefits of an educated population in South Africa and elsewhere.

South African Women for Women is pleased to present Denese the Education Award in recognition of her lifelong commitment to public education, the well-being of children and to the teaching profession.