01 Dec A parting shot for Mr Webster

Long-time Nayland teacher Athol Webster has one more week of teaching to go. Mr Webster is one of a number of long-serving staff retiring, alongside English teacher Chris Matthews and Head of Art Mike Friend. He has been teaching for 32 years at Nayland College, with 20 of those as the Head of PE. 

Mr Webster has taught under four of the five principals Nayland has had in its history. When he started in the PE department, current Deputy Principal Trevor Olley was the Head of Department.

There have been major changes in the subject over the time Mr Webster has been teaching. “I guess a lot of it [now] is more about how students interact with each other,” he said. “We’re quite big on what we call social responsibility, so making sure that they’re involved to the best of their ability, being supportive of other people and playing by the rules. Trying to create that positive environment is a big focus.”

For Athol Webster, it’s about the students’ personal development first and foremost. “I’m big on students trying out new things, trying to give it their best shot. So I’m not going to criticise someone who’s made the effort to try something. Performance may not be the same as someone else but that doesn’t matter, it’s the effort they’ve put in that’s important.”

He thinks it will be “interesting” come February when school goes back and he’s not going through the start-up for the year, something that has become a very familiar process. He is, however, intending to do some relieving, so he won’t be a total stranger.

Mr Webster has had the travel bug for a long time and he thinks he’ll probably always “suffer” from it. Earlier this year he and his wife travelled in southern Africa and went on safari. “It’s basically like being in the back of a hilux ute, no walls or anything (…) and a lion goes past feeding two metres away, or an elephant the same distance, hooting and stamping its feet, and you think ‘hmm maybe it’s time to move the truck!’”

He intends to keep travelling with the increased freedom of time of retirement. Tanzania and Kenya, Morocco and perhaps Egypt are all on the cards.

As well as travelling, golf is another of his past-times. “I’m getting more and more into golf as the body says you can’t do some of those other things,” he said. Those “other things” included playing basketball at a national level for 10 years.

Athol Webster’s parting advice for others in the teaching profession is to be yourself. “I think it’s really important just to be yourself because if you put on a false front students see through that in about 30 seconds. Be upfront, honest, be who you are. Be open to ideas and suggestions and try and be fair across the board.”

By Sera King – Teacher of Journalism