Maths was always my least preferred subject at school. In fact, I hated it. I guess I didn’t see the sense in manipulating numbers and solving equations.
This notion got challenged in my fourth form year at school when I was introduced to the determined, utterly commanding, and somewhat scary figure in Mr Peter Watt (or more affectionately Watty or One-Arm).
Even though I had known him since I began school in form 1, this was my first encounter of him as a teacher. He took my maths class on as the first fourth form cohort at St Peter’s College to attempt School Certificate Maths.
Mr Watt had a big bark and and even bigger bite. His was large in stature and spoke in a loud, clear way. He was a no nonsense character and his passion for hard work and determination showed when he actively supported many sports teams and extra-curricular groups at the school. From calling the school fair auctions, to singing loudly and proudly at school masses, his presence was always felt.
Back in the class, I was nervous about tackling School C Maths but Mr Watt explained things clearly and always told us that we could pass the exam if we worked hard. And work we did. Many of us ended up passing the exam and I was so proud when I had too!
A year later I had the privilege of attending a school fishing camp, with Mr Watt as one of our supervising teachers. My dad came along too and we got to know Mr Watt on a more personal level. He was so funny and generous. He was a fair dinkum Kiwi guy. I remember he took me out on his small boat with my dad and another student. He moved his large frame to the side of the boat to grab some equipment and I swear the boat was on an angle like the Titanic!
I remember a year later when it was announced to the school that Mr Watt had been involved in a serious car accident. Unfortunately his arm was badly injured and ended up being amputated. Such was the strength and resolve of the man that he came back to teaching within that school year.
Cue to 2018. A few months ago I was walking through the school and I noticed Mr Watt gliding by into the staffroom. Instinctively I knew I wanted to talk to him so I followed suit and re-introduced myself. It was about 20 years since I last saw or spoke with him.
I knew he had been battling cancer off and on for the past few years, so he looked a bit smaller and greyer. But his eyes still beamed and his kind, firm voice remained the same. I thanked him for the positive support he showed me many years ago and how grateful I was to pass School C Maths. I also told him how my parents held him in high regard and often asked about him over the years.
He looked at me and gave me the most satisfying smile. It was so familiar and genuine and I will never forget this. Rest in peace and love Mr Watt.
Mr Watt’s obituary can be read here: http://notices.nzherald.co.nz/obituaries/nzherald-nz/obituary.aspx?pid=189352537
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.