Life lessons taught
Katie Willis never saw it as volunteering her precious time – she loved every minute.
The Porirua teacher recently retired after 16 years at Bishop Viard College, where she taught Maori and art to intermediate pupils.
Much of her spare time was taken up with organising netball at the school, giving the 60-yearold her fair share of early starts and late finishes to her working day.
On November 2, Willis was recognised at the annual College Sport Wellington awards with a volunteer of the year gong.
‘‘I nearly fell over when they read my name out [on the night],’’ she said.
‘‘I wanted to hide under the table.
‘‘I could not believe it because there are so many worthy volunteers in my category and I was just doing something that I enjoyed so much.’’
By the end of her time at Viard, Willis was teaching the children of pupils she had once taught.
She began her career as a 40- year- old at Brandon Intermediate, working as a teacher aide and with special needs children.
‘‘ Teaching was something I started late in life, but it was around the time my own kids were at school and I just found it so enjoyable,’’ she said.
Managing sports teams came naturally to the sporty grandmother of 17.
She played netball, hockey and football in her younger years and her five children play ‘‘every game under the sun’’.
‘‘I spend a lot of time at netball courts and on the sidelines at Aussie rules, rugby league, rugby, hockey, soccer, watching and helping where I can.
‘‘ It’s just what you do as a parent or grandparent.’’
And as a teacher at Viard, too. Mostly with netball in past years, Willis organises bibs, balls, hair ties, cutting fingernails and transport for six teams.
She also volunteers with kapa haka and co-ordinates football at the college. It’s never been a chore. Sport kept youngsters off the street and taught them valuable life lessons like losing well, respect for coaches, the opposition and umpires, and teamwork and discipline, she said.
But now it’s time to put the handbrake on.
Two years ago Willis had an operation on a heart valve, caused by a bout of rheumatic fever when she was younger.
Much to her dismay, her doctor and family have warned her to take it easy, so Willis will become a sideline supporter only from now on.
She plans to carry on as a relief teacher at Bishop Viard for some time yet, however.
‘‘Slowing down is hard to do when you’ve been doing it for such a long time. But I guess it’s more about taking time for myself.’’
Viard sports co-ordinator Sam Leota said Willis would be sorely missed by the children and staff.
‘‘She was there [looking after netball] first thing at 8am and then after school. She was there regardless of whether it was raining or shining.’’