HARD-WORKING, dedicated and a people's person are some of the words that people use to describe one of this year's top five The Herald GM Citizen of the Year finalists, Nomonde Ntsundwana.
The 47-year-old Seyise Primary School teacher, who has taught for 23 years, started a garden project in 2005 at her former school, Canzibe Primary, in Motherwell.
Last year, Ntsundwana's gardening project was recognised when she was chosen as one of six eco-pioneers by Total in its quest to "recognise institutions and individuals who are committed to protecting the environment and working towards a greener planet".
What's more, Ntsundwana has just come second in a national teachers' competition. She was runner-up at the Argo Stars in Education competition on World Teachers' Day in Pretoria on October 5.
Seyise Primary principal Xoliswa Vikishe described Ntsundwana as having a unique gift.
"She is a hard worker in and out of class and a people's person who loves to get involved in other projects as well.
"She realises not every pupil will understand what is being said. She has a very unique gift.
"We had a garden before she came here, but no one had knowledge about gardening."
Xoliswa Mambalu, a teacher at Dumani Primary in Motherwell, said they had learnt a lot from Ntsundwana.
"She taught us how to garden without using chemicals – gardening the organic way. She loves gardening and to see people healthy.
"We grew up in an era where gardening was important and she is bringing back that culture now," Mambalu said.
"Her teachings have resulted in our school winning R20000 at a regional competition and R50000 at provincial level."
Ntsundwana said she never expected to be recognised for her gardening projects.
"I feel a challenge coming because the people who nominated me will be expecting more. It really is motivating to be nominated," the single mother-of-two said.
"I want the children to know that vegetables do not just appear in supermarkets. When you teach something to children, they grow up with it."
Ntsundwana last year won SANParks' kudu award in the category of individual environmental education and capacity-building. She was also a Shoprite/Checkers Women of the Year finalist this year.
Her Canzibe gardening project supports 10 schools, two NGOs and two churches.
Ntsundwana also has an hour long radio show, Ufundo Ngezolimo, on Nkqubela FM, every Thursday from 5pm, where she shares her gardening knowledge with listeners.
Ntsundwana also started an orange-fleshed sweet potato nursery in 2008.
A rugby coach when she was at Canzibe, she assists with netball coaching at Seyise, and enjoys reading in her spare time.