truly deserves an


Dr Deon van Tonder is more than just an educator. He is a champion of professional development, an advocate for student voices and a custodian of knowledge.


Why he deserved to win

(Click on the names to read more.)



“Dr van Tonder taught me to always strive towards excellence in all that I do. As a lecturer, he always wants the best for us and by giving us his best, he inspires us to give our best.


In my first year, I found him to be a very strict lecturer, but as I am now about to become a teaching professional myself, I understand the value of his teaching philosophy and the importance of professionalism within the teaching practice.”


Hope Mono, final-year BEd student

“Our nickname for Dr van Tonder was ‘The Boss’ and I think it says it all – we revered him as a lecturer, but also admired him as a teaching professional.


From the very first day of class in our first year, he motivated us to work hard and to do the best we possibly can.  My wish for the future is to make him proud and to put into practice what he taught us.”


Leah Maboe, final-year BEd student

Deon in conversation with two of his students, Leah Maboe (left) and  Hope Mono. He believes in an open door policy and makes time to interact with all his students on a personal level.




"I don’t teach to impress others, but rather to make a lasting difference to the lives of my students. I am driven to touch one life per day and this award serves as an indicator that my commitment is paying dividends."

– Dr Deon van Tonder, winner of the Distinguished Teaching Excellence Award.

In this video award-winning lecturer Dr Deon van Tonder advises other lecturers always to be excited about their work and never teach to impress other people.

Prof Linda du Plessis, deputy vice-chancellor for planning and Vaal Triangle Campus operations, hands over of the coveted award to Deon.

Eager to know more about the man behind the accolade, eish! met up with Deon shortly after he won the NWU’s coveted Distinguished Teaching Excellence Award (DTEA).

Embracing the journey of learning

“In life we all take different paths, but in the end, all that matters is whether or not they lead us home. In my case, I can confidently say that I am at home in the lecture room,” says Deon.

Talking of different paths, Deon himself took a detour at one time before making his way back to where he started, teaching.

From 1999 to 2000, he worked as a systems analyst for Advanced System Technologies, but although working for a corporate was challenging and stimulating, his heart still belonged in education. “Teaching will always be my passion,” says Deon and adds that he can’t imagine a life without it.

It all started here

A proud NWU alumnus, his association with the university started when he enrolled for a BCom degree in 1984. He went on to complete that degree, as well as a postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE), his master’s and his doctorate in education management – all at the campus in Vanderbijlpark.

His career as an educator started at the then Lettie Fouché Hoërskool in Vanderbijlpark in 1989. In 1990 Deon joined Hoërskool Transvalia in Vanderbijlpark and after 10 years there, he took his leave of teaching for two years in the corporate sector, then joined a private school in Pretoria for six months.

“Those six months were the best of my teaching career,” he says, explaining that the school lacked the modern teaching aids that many educators take for granted, forcing the teaching staff to exercise their ingenuity.

Going for gold

Deon then joined the Hoërskool Transvalia in Vanderbijlpark again where he stayed until 2011. Next, he joined the NWU as a junior lecturer, steadily moving up the ranks.

Today, he is deputy director of the School for Commerce and Social Studies in Education and a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Education – and an excellent lecturer at that, as his DTEA accolade attests.

“I could not believe it when Prof Linda du Plessis called out my name, and for a moment I thought I was imagining it,” laughs Deon, adding that he was humbled by the award.

He explains that for him, the award represents teamwork and a shared dream of excellence and he wishes to thank his colleagues and his students for strengthening his arms.