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Don farewells Makoura


34 years on the job
College retirement to be ‘emotional’

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It’s been more than three decades since Don Miller became Head of Faculty Hauora at Makoura College in 1987.

Beginning as a teacher and ending as assistant principal, Miller, 67, is set to retire at end of this year after 34 years at the school.

Miller began teaching in 1980.

Having studied teaching in Auckland and started his career in Palmerston North, he returned to Wairarapa and had not wanted to leave since.

“I get on really well with the students here, and there’s a great local environment with the coast and the Tararua Range,” he said.

“The real plus for Makoura is the smaller size. I know every student there and that’s really important to me.”

As well as being responsible for sport and outdoor education, he has also coached athletics, basketball, rugby, hockey, volleyball, and netball teams.

He focused on each sport for five to six years before moving on to the next one, “just to get a freshening up”.

Miller has been with Makoura College through many ups and downs, including when the school was facing closure in 2008.

“We struggle for numbers because people don’t know enough about us,” he said.

“I want parents to come and see what we can offer before making a decision.”

He was first inspired to take up teaching by a “really neat” teacher he had while still a student at Kuranui College.

Once he’d decided on the career path, physical education was his obvious choice of subject.

“I’ve always enjoyed that physical activity, and for me, that was the way into teaching.”

While he said the stigma against physical education as a school subject had improved, he thought there was still some way to go.

“If you go back to pre-NCEA it sort of didn’t have the same standing as maths and English,” he said.

“It’s become more recognised as a subject, but you still can’t just be good at sport and get good grades, you still need to be good at writing.”

The biggest change in education over the course of his career had been the introduction and advancement of technology.

“The nature of teaching has changed over the past 40-50 years,” he said.

“There’s far less involvement in sport these days because [students] get sidetracked by screens.”

For Miller, each student’s success felt like his own, which he said was reflective of the good relationships between students and teacher.

“While I might have to discipline them one day, the next day we’re best mates again.”

Miller would be going on his last school camp in the next few weeks and expected retirement from the college to be “extremely emotional”.

He planned to remain involved in the school through relief teaching.

“It’s just time for me,” he said.

“I’ve been so busy with sports and camps that I haven’t really got many hobbies of my own.”

One thing he was looking forward to was getting more involved in conservation work, a field of work he had originally thought about entering before becoming a teacher.

“I’d like to be able to give back some more. The enjoyment that I’ve had, I want kids to be able to have that environment to enjoy as well.”

Miller’s farewell function will be held on November 14 at Makoura College Hall at 5.30pm. All are welcome.

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