After spending a lifetime in education, school principal Gavin Burgess has bid his teaching career farewell.
Spending the last 27 of his 40-year career at Highlands Primary School, Burgess officially retired on Monday last week with a farewell ceremony held for him at the school on Wednesday last week.
The school hall was decorated with posters created by various classes, wishing Burgess well for his retirement.
Growing up in Athlone, Burgess first developed his interest in teaching while supporting local sports teams.
“When I was in matric they were looking for teachers because people were reluctant to become teachers. I always had a desire because I grew up in Belgravia Estate close to Hewitt College and as a youngster I got attached to the college supporting all their teams,” says Burgess.
After studying, he taught in Athlone for seven years before becoming one of the first teachers at Cornflower Primary School and then moving to Highlands Primary School in 1990 as a department head.
After a few years he became deputy principal, then principal in 2008.
Burgess says he is looking forward to his retirement.
“I’m looking forward to relaxing with the wife and family and travelling which I never had time for. Also not being governed by the school holidays when everyone’s prices go up, we can go in off-season,” Burgess says with a laugh.
Burgess lives in Colorado Park and walked to school every day for the past 27 years. This is one of the things he will miss most, he says.
Living so close to school, he adds, he will be constantly reminded of his retirement as the children pass his home on their way to school.
Finding it difficult to stay away, Burgess says he will always be a part of the school, if they will have him.
“I am very active in sport as a board member of Western Province Athletics and also the chairperson of the technical team officials, so I will continue with that,” says Burgess.
Some of his fondest memories he will take with him is the great group of staff he had met at the school and the athletic and academic achievements of the school.
He says he looks forward to coaching cross country as he never had time to work with children before due to other responsibilities.
“I will always be there for the school and be a supporter for them,” says Burgess.
His daughter, Meryl, a product of the school, recently qualified with a PhD in Policial Science. She says her parents are a big part of her success.
“I had him as a teacher in Grade 7 and he was always tough on me and the way he was at school he was at home. If I asked him a question, he would say I must find a dictionary and look it up myself and that helped me,” she says.
She wishes her father well and hopes he will take a bit of time for himself during his retirement.
“One of my dreams was to see the school hall built and we achieved that. Now my hope is that the staff and new principal continue to have goals and aim to achieve a higher level for the school,” he says.