Teacher, tennis mentor and loving mother
A devoted mother and a passionate educator; that was how friends and colleagues remembered popular teacher and tennis mentor Disa Potgieter-Oubella, who died on Sunday.
Mrs Potgieter-Oubella, who was also a well-known and widely respected figure in Bermuda’s athletics and tennis community, was 64.
The mother of two was a key part of the island’s tennis community serving as vice-president and youth development officer for the Bermuda Lawn Tennis Association.
Mrs Potgieter-Oubella taught at Warwick Academy for more than a decade between September 1995 and 2009.
Former colleagues described her devotion to her two children, Gavin Manders, the island’s No 1 tennis player, and Sophia, and said she had made a lifelong impact on many students’ lives.
Head of the modern foreign language department, Abena Okanta-Ofari, told The Royal Gazette: “Disa was a truly impactful, talented educator with the biggest heart for her students and colleagues and their wellbeing and aspirations.
“Disa would work tirelessly and passionately to help others in any way she could both inside and outside the classroom. She was much loved and has made a lifelong impact on many, many lives. My sincere condolences to family and friends. Rest in Peace.”
The school’s head of PE Mark Thorne told The Royal Gazette: “Disa was a very passionate and supportive person who loved her students and encouraged them to reach their very best. She kept an open-door policy and her room, whether first thing in the morning, at recess, or at lunch was always a buzz of energy.
“Disa was the Patton House leader for many years and was meticulous with her sign ups, ensuring her students entered in the appropriate events.
“She was highly competitive but loving. Disa adored her two children, Gavin and Sophia, and when we got together to chat, she proudly shared her stories and kept me updated on their accomplishments. She wanted nothing but the very best for them.”
Outside of school, Mrs Potgieter-Oubella helped to organised the ballboys and ballgirls for the XL Bermuda Open and spent endless hours training them for the event.
David Lambert, former president of the BLTA, said: “The sport of tennis is in a better place in Bermuda because of Disa. It was a pleasure to work with her and see how much work she and her team put into the Bermuda Open.
“She was always accessible and always well organised. She was a lot of fun to work with and gave so much to the sport and the children that loved tennis.”
Warwick Academy senior teacher Jill Finnigan said: “Her fun but firm approach will be remembered by all of the juniors who took part in the Bermuda Open.
“My son thoroughly enjoyed being part of this group and still to this day chats about the players they met and the interaction they had with them. Disa made a very positive impact on many youngsters in Bermuda.”
Warwick Academy principal Dave Horan added: “Disa and her family are a significant part of the Warwick Academy family. On behalf of the school we extend our condolences to them on their loss.”
Close friend Jon Beard, the deputy head at Saltus Grammar School, said: “I was deeply saddened to learn of Disa’s passing. I knew her from when she first came to the island as a young teacher, and she has been a good friend ever since.
“She was active in track and field — and as her family involved themselves in sport then so her sphere of impact increased. She was indeed one of life’s doers — Disa was not going to sit around and just talk about what had to be done, she went out and got it done.
“Her impact in the education world was truly significant, and there are a lot of people who are grieving over the loss of a woman who had a real impact in their life.
“I will miss her ready laugh and her can-do attitude. She was kind, outgoing and determined. For me her greatest pride was her family. They are in my thoughts and prayers as they come to terms of life without Disa.”
Among Mrs Potgieter-Oubella’s memorable achievements was being part of the Bermuda delegation to the ill-fated 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh. An indecisive Bermuda ultimately boycotted the Games over Britain’s inaction against apartheid South Africa, but not before entering the Meadowbank Stadium to a standing ovation at the opening ceremony.
Donna Raynor, president of the Bermuda National Athletics Association, also expressed her sadness at hearing of Mrs Potgieter-Oubella’s passing.
“Disa has always been a supporter of athletics especially as a PE teacher,” she said. “I remember her enthusiasm during the interschool sports and really any sport that Disa was involved in. I am sure she is going to be greatly missed in the education system and especially by the students.”
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