Gavin is a passionate educator and school leader who has used the research in neurolearning and leading to change a school and the community. He shares the practical application with schools, corporates and leaders in order to improve performance and the quality of life. Gavin and his wife Heather have raised two boys to be successful adults – leaders in their fields. He speaks from experience and practise. His guidance is simple, humorous, but dynamic.
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Gavin Keller has been the Principal at Sun Valley for 25 years and in education for 36 years. He is the second Principal, following in the steps of the Founder Principal, John Florence.
Mr Keller is an ‘old’ SACS boy, completing his Matric at SACS in 1976 and studying at Port Elizabeth Teachers’ College and Cape Town Teachers’ College. He started teaching at Kirstenhof Primary School in Cape Town in 1985, was appointed Head of Department at Muizenberg Junior in 1989 and Principal of Sun Valley in 1993.
He is passionate about education. He firmly believes that if the first eight years are dynamic, a child will develop all the necessary skills, concepts and attitudes and values necessary for success in life. Success, he believes, is dependent on having a good self-value, being in a learning organisation where there are high expectations and being given the skills to cope effectively with what the future world demands. It is the school’s role therefore, to develop a good self-value in each child, to set high, but realistic expectations and to predict what the world will demand by the time the learners reach adulthood.
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In order to achieve this, Gavin and his staff have set about to create a curriculum that is fully integrated and totally Inclusive with exciting, future-based, relevant, digital and dynamic themes. Supported by outstanding teachers and visionary leaders, the school has become well known both nationally and internationally as a model brain-based learning site. In 2014 the school achieved a 100% rating in the National Whole School Evaluation (WSE) and was also awarded the ASHOKA Changemaker School status – joining 100 international ASHOKA schools where empathy is a key focus in the curriculum.
He travels regularly in Southern Africa and internationally, sharing his expertise on Brain-based Teaching, Learning and Leading, Curriculum Integration, Emotional Intelligence, Inclusive education, Executive Access, Co-operative Learning and School Leadership. He has run seminars and workshops in Namibia, Botswana, Swaziland, United Arab Emirates and in most provinces in South Africa. He is currently the CEO of Sun Valley Group of Schools, an Association incorporated under Section 21 which serves as The Business Behind Public Education. This company raises money to make sure that our public school has the capacity to function at the level of the best schools – anywhere in the world. The Academy runs a Home Base after-care unit for 150 students, a Teaching Academy offering a B Ed degree for 20 full-time students, a School Uniform Boutique, an Independent High School, a Music Academy with 300 students, a Sports Academy attracting over 300 students, a Restaurant that feeds the students and a Funscapes (Art & Culture) programme. The school is FULLY Inclusive and employs 34 full-time Facilitators for one-to-one support within the mainstream.
Gavin enjoys keeping abreast with modern international trends. In 1999 he attended the International Confederation of Principals’ Conference in Helsinki, Finland and in 2002 he participated in the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) convention in San Antonio, Texas. In 2004 he attended an ASCD (Association of Supervision and Curriculum development) Convention in New Orleans. In 2006 he attended the Brain Expo in Orlando, Florida, USA. In July 2008, he again attended the Brain Expo in Orlando, Florida. In 2010 he attended the ASCD conference in San Francisco and in 2012 he participated in the prestigious Neuroleadership Institute Conference in New York. In 2014 he participated in the Association for Talent Development (AST) in Washington DC. In 2016 he attended the Learning and the Brain Conference in San Francisco, the 2017 Conference in Washington and the 2018 Conference in New York. He is regarded as an expert in brain-based teaching, learning an leading and keeps abreast with all the latest research-based techniques in education.
Gavin was a member of the NAPTOSA-Professional Growth Team for many year. This team runs weekend seminars for teachers in the Western and Eastern Cape. Here teachers and school leaders are equipped with the latest methods and approaches used internationally. He is the past President of the Western Cape chapter of the South African Principals’ Association (SAPA) and served on the National Executive of this Association. He served as a consultant to SAPA, guiding them in professional development programmes. He ran the SAPA LEAD (Leadership Advantage) programme providing two day professional development seminars for school leaders. He was the Academic Director of their annual Teachers’ Conference held at the CTICC for several year. In 2017 Gavin was part of the ICP (International Confederation of Principals) Local Organising Committee and presented two sessions to the 1300 international and local delegates.
Today, Gavin divides his time between leading a high performing Group of Schools in Cape Town and sharing his dreams and their practical application with schools, Universities and Corporates. He is a sought after keynote speaker and makes regular radio and TV appearances.
“Whether I work with teachers in wealthy, modern, well-equipped schools or teachers who work in rural, under-privileged environments-I remain astounded how teachers have an insatiable desire to improve their teaching capacity. There is an urgent need in our country for good teacher training from practitioners who know what they are talking about!”
“School is about making memories!” he says. ” We have thirteen years (and a mere 13 000 hours) to offer them the best possible education, but more than that-we have thirteen years to generate memories that learning is fun and that school is a good place to be. School is the place where we develop life-long learners!”