Life lessons taught

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By KRIS DANDO

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.’’

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