Stellenbosch University (SU), the Faculty of Education and the Department of Curriculum Studies are deeply saddened by the death of an exceptional lecturer in mathematics, Dr Helena Wessels. At the time of her passing, Dr Wessels was senior lecturer in Mathematics Education for the Foundation Phase in the BEd programme. She was responsible for modules in the BEd Foundation Phase Honours programme and the BEd fourth years. She was passionate about music and also presented two modules in music within the BEd programme.
Dr Wessels made a particular mark in the integration of technology and e-learning in her classes and teaching programmes and authored various publications, including the book International perspectives on the teaching and learning of mathematical modelling and sense making (2017). She also built up strong research collaboration ties with colleagues in Washington and New York in the US and in Germany, heading the committee responsible for arranging the International Conference on the Teaching and Modelling of Mathematics and Applications, held here in 2017.
She received numerous awards and was selected to represent SU for the South African Teaching Advancement at University (TAU) Fellowship in 2018. She was requested several times by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to present workshops for teachers countrywide.
Dr Wessels's service to her community was extensive and she made a difference at various levels. She served on the executive board of the International Council of Teachers for Mathematical Modelling and Applications, the board of the Centre for Creative Education in Cape Town (CCE) and the standing committee for Mathematics and Science Teaching of the Human Resources Development Council. She was a member of various committees within the Department, the Faculty and the University.
The Department of Curriculum Studies and the Faculty of Education honour Dr Wessels as an exceptional human being and her passing is a great loss to the Department and the University. Her husband, Prof Dirk Wessels, is also an extraordinary professor in Mathematics in the same department at Stellenbosch University.