Mr. Luis was my mathematics teacher throughout my matriculation at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls (OWLAG). I entered OWLAG from amongst the most under-resourced primary schools of my admission class. This meant that I was both at a relative academic disadvantage while being newly inducted to the level of academic rigour of a private South African high school. With all the odds stacked against me, I graduated high school as one the top students in mathematics and valedictorian of my class, and Mr. Luis was undoubtedly paramount in my ability to achieve this feat.

Throughout my time at OWLAG, Mr. Luis was committed to excellence in education and had the unshakeable belief in any students’ ability to grasp mathematics given a teacher who is skilled at playing to their students’ strengths while cognisant of areas that pose a challenge for them. He embodied this commitment and belief through relentless and tireless help and support, going as far as giving up his weekday afternoons and Saturdays spending countless hours giving extra review classes and helping me and my class keep up with the increased pace in mathematics he introduced because he envisioned us performing at the level of some of South Africa’s best schools, despite our backgrounds.

Almost ten years later, and having graduated salutatorian of my undergraduate class pursuing a BS in Biology at Spelman College in Atlanta; earned a MSc in Medical Anthropology at the University of Oxford  in the UK and currently pursuing a medical degree at Stanford University in California, Mr. Luis remains one of the best teachers I have ever had. His  love for mathematics (and teaching) remains unmatched. He always finds innovative ways of teaching and making mathematics instinctive. I know I speak for many of my OWLAG peers when I say, he created an engaging and fun learning environment that made an infamously hard subject rather enjoyable. Whether it was to travel the world or be the next world’s best mathematicians, we always left his classes feeling incredibly inspired.

Bongeka Zuma

Past Student Of John Luis

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