“My wife tells me I’ve been to school for 63 years, and she’s not sure I’ve learned much in that time.”
After more than 31 years as principal at Puketaha School, the 68-year-old is finally leaving the education system. “I’ll probably learn a lot more once I’m retired.”
He stepped down from the top job at Puketaha on September 27, but is officially in charge of the school until the holidays end, October 31. Then, he says, he and wife Helen are off to Raratonga for a week of serious relaxation. “We’ll make the most of it.”
He started at Puketaha School in 1982, with 70 children and three teachers. Today there are 10 classrooms, 13 teachers and 266 students.
A perfect number, he says. “We know every child and we have enough kids to participate in any sport or activity. Not too big, not too small. I’d recommend it.”
Born in Otorohanga, he attended Hamilton West, as a student. He avoided going into the postal service, which his father wanted, and instead signed up at North Shore Teachers’ Training College.
His first teaching job was at Takanini, and his first role as principal was with Kirakau Primary, near Taumranui, which had 15 students.
“It was a bit of an eye opener but I soon learned. A lot of my beliefs and ideas came out of working in small rural schools during the 80s. I was able to experiment and see what worked.”
The key to everything was community. “Everyone rode horses and played polo cross. Once I bought a horse, I was one of them. That really hit home how important community is.”
When he moved to Ruawaro School, the horse went too. “We all played polo and one-day eventing; being involved is being part of the community. We’re all together, on the same page, and that‘s when learning happens.”
He’s not a fan of the National Standards, and feels there is too much political accountability these days.
“We’re all individuals. It’s all about learning, not passing tests. I feel a bit sorry for today’s teachers.”
There have been many special moments, including working with a great team. “It’s always the people you work with, teachers, parents, we’ve had a lot of fun. At times we’ve gone out there and proven a little school can thump a big school. We love that. I’m not competitive, of course.”
Bob has a passion for ‘real stuff’, the school has a nine-hole golf course and he enjoyed teaching the etiquette of the game to senior students.
Another highlight has been history lessons with Major Blunder and Alf’s Imperial Army.
In 2011 most of the school dressed up as Zulus, in the re-enactment of the Battle of Rorke’s Drift. Later that year it was the Battle of Hastings, and a few week’s ago, the battle of Mons was played out on the school sports field.
It is all fun, says Bob, as well as being absolutely educational, with students gaining a perspective of what went on and why
“It was also a last chance for the kids to throw flour bombs at me, of course.”
After a week’s sunning in Raratonga there will be plenty to be carrying on with on the nearby lifestyle block on Sainsbury Rd.
“I’ve got two horses who are two years’ behind in their development. There is a garage full of interesting projects; half finished model planes and boats, a train that’s been waiting for about 50 years, and half a Lotus Seven. I might even tidy up the garage one day…”
In addition, Helen has a six-month list, so there’s no danger he will get bored, now he’s no longer at school.
- New principal Geoff Booth, deputy principal at Tauranga Intermediate, will open the new term at Puketaha.