In Memory of a Beautiful Soul, Heather Bensch

EQ in Action Durban, Avril Kidd, Heather Bensch Dedication - image of a desk with school books and an apple, blackboard in background
Written by: Avril Kidd
Heather Bensch is my inspiration for this article as I want to share what she has brought to this world, and give us all an opportunity to continue her legacy.

What a teacher writes on the blackboard of life can never be erased. [JOHN COTTON]

 We lost an amazing member of our community during June 2022. Heather Bensch was a valued friend, amazing teacher, and dedicated mother and wife. I want to honor her by dedicating this article to her in appreciation of the legacy she has left behind. Heather was tragically killed in a car accident on the way to support the younger of her 2 sons, on his final matric rugby tour. Not only has Heather been a valued friend of mine for the past 13 years, she has also been one of the most influential teachers in my son’s life, and the lives of hundreds of other pupils who had the privilege of being taught by her over the years. She is my inspiration for this article as I want to share what she has brought to this world, and give us all an opportunity to continue her legacy.


Leadership exercise

One of the exercises that I use frequently in my EQ Workshops is a ‘leadership’ exercise, where I ask everyone to think of someone who has inspired them, during any stage of their lives; to think of the person who has had the greatest impact on them in a positive way, who has brought out the best in them and motivated them, and who they most aspire to be like. It is also someone who leaves you feeling more motivated, respected, and inspired; and, as many of my delegates often say, also feeling more heard, loved, and safe. They make you feel better just by the experience of having been in their presence.

Participants can choose anyone in their lives: from when they were a child, to the present as adults. Some people choose a parent, a manager or even friend; and some a teacher. I think that whenever I run this exercise in future, Heather will be at the forefront of my mind. Having had my own experience with her as a loyal and supportive friend, who I shared many a laugh, tear, and glass of wine with; but especially now as I have witnessed the huge impact that she has had on every child who had the privilege of being in her classroom. I wonder how many of them would think of her if they do this exercise at any stage in their lives.


Safe place

My son described her classroom as his ‘safe place’. A place he could go to, to just be! Somewhere that he felt comfortable, welcome, supported, and believed in. It has become evident that there were many more boys like my son who chose her classroom as their safe place. She created an environment where her students could feel heard, safe from judgement, and inspired to learn. They trusted her! This led me to thinking what the role of a teacher or Educator is, and in researching the definition of such, came across these statements below …

The best educator is someone who believes in helping their students to keep growing. (TEACHMINT)

Better than a thousand days of diligent study is one day with a great teacher. (JAPANESE PROVERB)

Your heart is slightly larger than the average human heart, but that’s because you’re a teacher. (AARON BACALL)

Teachers can change lives with the right mix of chalk and challenges. (JOYCE MEYER)

Every day, no matter which career we have or which role we play in society, we have the opportunity to teach and educate and the best way to do that is ‘how we are’. Remember, people learn more from what we do than what we say or tell them to do.


What are our actions teaching?

People learn when they feel psychologically safe, not when they feel judged or threatened. Heather taught her many pupils how to think creatively; to question and be curious; to be kind and non-judgmental; to chase their dreams and purpose, not material goods and wealth; to appreciate life and each other; to appreciate learning and the gifts that learning brings.

I believe that good teachers and leaders share these qualities:

  • Empathetic and active listeners
  • Good Communicators
  • Patient and approachable
  • Creative and adaptable
  • Ethical and respectful
  • Focus on and encourage collaboration
  • And last but not least, they’re passionate about what they do!

Teachers have the most amazing opportunity to nurture young minds. To stimulate their thinking and creativity, to challenge respectfully, to excite and help the youth to paint their canvasses.


My challenge to myself and to all of you

What can we do to support the education of our youth, not only in schools butat home and at work too?
How can we also create a safe place for people to be their natural selves without fear of judgment?
How can we build a place where others can live their values, learn, and even test their boundaries in a constructive manner?
How can we provide an environment where they can learn to appreciate and respect themselves and others?

This teaching doesn’t have to only be restricted to a classroom. It applies in the workplace, our homes, social settings, sports clubs, anywhere there are other people. Every moment has a teaching or learning opportunity. We don’t need to just teach facts. We also have a responsibility to teach values, ethics, kindness,patience, and many other virtues. Heather taught so much more than English.

Thank you to those other teachers who do the same – we appreciate you!

RIP Beautiful Heather.

You may be gone from my sight but you are never gone from my heart. [BHAVYA GAUR]