Friday, June 7, 2013

AESS Won't Be the Same Without Him

My husband is retiring.  For 35 years he has been one of the most dedicated, effective, caring teachers a student could have.  He has been a role model as a teacher, an athlete, a coach but most importantly, as a man.  The boys and girls who have been lucky enough to pass through his classroom have been treated to being taught by a true gentleman.  I know that he has been a fantastic teacher but as a mom, a grandmother and a wife, I think that his gentle, caring nature towards everyone he meets is as important as his dedication to his career.   He cared so much about his students and went out of his way to connect with those who sought his advice and company and often became that one adult at school that so many kids need to stay engaged.

For anyone involved in public education these days you know how hard it is to get coaches, never mind good coaches.  The student athletes at Agassiz Secondary were fortunate to have one of the best in their midst.  For 35 years straight Bob has coached. His passion for basketball was second only to his passion for teaching.  There were years he mentioned taking a year off, having a break, but when no coach could be found he stepped up because he couldn't face the team not having a coach.  He is best known for coaching basketball and for winning a provincial championship along the way.  Along the way he also coached volleyball, track and field, golf, soccer and fastball.  We are very proud that each of our children went on to play university level sports, along with many other AESS athletes.

I know for him that developing a child's character, in the classroom and on the court, has been as important to him as their mastering algebra or basketball.  I know that he has spent 35 years seeing the best in the students he taught and coached.  I have lived with him for all of these years and I have had the pleasure of teaching and coaching with him as well and I know that any conversation that hinted of negativity was responded to with positivity.  He intentionally sought the best in his students and athletes and because of this saw the best in them.  In turn those students and athletes gave their best as well.

Our daughter wrote a blog about her dad a couple of months ago and our son a couple of years ago.  Their words say more than mine ever could:

"My dad is about the most modest person that you would ever meet - modest about everything. He does not like to be fussed over, he does not like to be recognized, he does not like to be honoured. He has been teaching at the same high school since 1977, as a math teacher, and in all of his years at that school you will not have met a person who has been more giving of himself in so many ways. Yes, you will find a handful of AMAZING teachers, who have impacted their students lives in more ways than they would know. But there is just something special about my Dad; as a teacher, as a coach, as a human being.
You will find him in his classroom well before the bell, helping kids prepare for exams, or catching up on missed work. You will find him in his classroom at lunchtime, helping kids prepare for exams, or catching up on missed work, or trying to understand a concept they just can not grasp. You will find him in his classroom after school, doing what? Helping kids prepare for exams, or catching up - I think you understand.
You will find my Dad helping students who have graduated and are taking college math courses to further their careers. You will find my Dad on the phone, at our house, in the evening, talking his students through problems. You will find the neighbours, who are his students, sitting at our kitchen table getting help with their homework.
I am afraid that I have made it sound like all he does is help students with math- it may seem like that to many people - but on the odd occasion that a student will stop by his classroom (or his house) for help with Math, he won't be there. Where will he be? In the gym.
He will be in the gym coaching the Senior Boys, or the Senior Girls, or the Junior girls, or the Junior boys, so the trend continues. He will be running practices, he will be scrimmaging when his team is short players, he will be there before school, or after school, on days when he is not practicing. He will be there scrimmaging with kids that he hopes will join the team, because the team would benefit, and they, as people would benefit. He will be there watching the teams that he does not coach, so that he can talk to them about it the next day at school."

"Growing up, he was that perfect combination of parent and big brother, a playmate when I needed one, and yet an authority figure when he needed to be. Basketball, softball, golf, tennis, you name it he would play it with us (and beat us at it, a trend that faded far too late in life). The coaching gene had apparently been passed to him, as well, and all of us grew up in the Agassiz High gym, learning to dribble a basketball soon after we learned to walk. Once we began to play organized sports, he coached us if he could, if we wanted him to, and to this day he remains the best coach I ever had. Other coaches screamed and yelled and punished their players for mistakes, forced them to memorize plays, sucked the fun out of the game; he made us want to play, let us have fun while giving us the tools to be successful at the same time, and almost never raised his voice; and of course, when you never yell, it makes the times you do far more effective, as anyone who has been on the receiving end of his anger will attest to.
His coaching style and his parenting style are very similar, and I guess in a way that makes sense, they are different degrees of the same role; sports coach versus life coach. Patient, fun, allowing you room to make mistakes, and there to help you through them when you do; for as many times as I’m sure I disappointed him while growing up, I can not think of a single time where he disappointed me. You know, I don’t think there are very many people in this world who can say that about their parents; until I wrote that, I had never really thought about it, which I’m pretty sure makes it true. "

I think we could go one step further and say that his teaching style was the same as his coaching style and his parenting style.  All of them based in integrity, honesty, dedication and real caring.

Geoff Johnson wrote an article in last week's Vancouver Sun about retiring teachers, 'Teachers help 'the kids' write book of their lives'  and I think he was writing about my husband.  (google: Geoff Johnson, Vancouver Sun, May 29, 2013).

I know he'll miss his colleagues.  I know he won't miss staff meetings or report cards.  I know he'll miss the routine.  I know he won't miss the hours and hours of work done at home.  Most of all, I know he'll miss the kids.

My husband, a rare breed, knew he wanted to be a math teacher (or quarterback for the BC Lions) since he was in grade 2.  He spent his life preparing for it.  He left his home town (and his girlfriend!) and headed off to U Vic in pursuit of his dreams.  His determination never wavered (except for once) and when the phone call came he was ready.  He's been a "teacher" his whole life.  He just didn't get paid for it until 1978.  Once he landed his first job he spent significant time trying to talk me into following his footsteps.  Four children later I took on the challenge.  His constant support and encouragement paid off when I became a teacher in 1988.  It's not a dream I ever had for myself and for me, this is one of the most important characteristics of a teacher; he could see something in me that I couldn't see in myself and he helped me to see it, believe it and achieve it.  The role of 'teacher' is part of who he is and, as our kids mentioned in their blogs, it is reflected in the father he is, the husband he is, the grampa he is and most importantly, in the man he is.

We have many exciting plans for our retirement years and can't wait for them to begin but it's still hard knowing that the teaching profession is losing one of its finest next week. What's good to know is that for 35 years in his classroom at Agassiz Secondary School, in the gymnasium at Agassiz Secondary School and in the community at large, his legacy will live on.  He has touched the lives of hundreds of students and colleagues in a way that will not be forgotten.

Some people spend their lives not knowing what their gifts and strengths are.  Some people spend their lives looking for a job/career/vocation that gives back as much to them as they give to it.  Some people are born knowing.  It's a beautiful thing when a career and a passion come together and for the last 35 years, it's definitely been a beautiful thing.  Robert John Meehan wrote the following words:

But they could have been written by Bob Watson.

Congratulations on an amazing career Bob!

1 comment:

  1. Bob Watson, born teacher for sure. What a proud and loving tribute to your husband, Roxanne. All the best to the both of you.