When Ken McCallum popped in to take a look around Waitaki Boys’ High School in 1990, little did he know he would spend the next 27 years there.
He was based in Christchurch at the time, as dean of discipline at Papanui High School.
“It was actually happenstance,” he said of the visit that would eventually lead to a fulltime job at the school, first as head of technology then as senior master.
Mr McCallum’s 47-year teaching career comes to an end on December 8.
The 65-year-old felt it was time to hang up his robes and concentrate on other aspects of life.
He said while at Papanui, he saw the head of technology job at Waitaki Boys’ advertised.
While passing through one long weekend, Mr McCallum, originally from Southland, thought he might pop his head into the door at the school.
It turned out to be a life-changing decision.
“I had actually been head of technology because the head was on a two-year secondment to the Ministry of Education, which got extended out to a third year,” he said of his later years at Papanui, where he taught between 1973 and 1990.
“At the time, they had promoted me to the odd-sounding dean of discipline job, where I looked after the collection of people on detention and punishment.
“When I was coming back, it just happened to be Christchurch show weekend, there was a job at Waitaki and I popped in just to have a look at it. They took my details and most unexpectedly after a few weeks they offered me the job of head of technology here, so I thought ‘why not?”‘
It was a job he had until 2012, when he was made senior master.
Originally, he did not plan to stay in Oamaru long-term.
“The idea was we would be here for about five years and move back to Christchurch.”
His mind was changed by former deputy rector Dave Mellish, who offered Mr McCallum “new challenges” that kept him keen.
After close to three decades, he looked back fondly on his time at Waitaki Boys’ and was particularly proud of his role in establishing the school’s outdoor education facility at Lake Middleton and the pupils he encouraged to take up carpentry as a career.
“It (carpentry) was offered to them as an alternative to studying technology. Of about 3000 I taught that, about 900 ended up as carpenters or builders in their own right.”
Another highlight was organising the school’s Anzac Day commemorations, held each year at the Hall of Memories.
Mr McCallum also served as the school’s master of rugby and was the Second XV manager.
He would continue to be involved with the sport at the school in an administration role until another could “step up and take over”.
For now, though, there were enough jobs to keep him busy on his 6.5ha block of land at Hilderthorpe.
He also wanted to dedicate more time to photography and shooting film, something he had not “had much time for over the last few years”.
Mr McCallum attended James Hargest College in Invercargill and started teachers’ college in Dunedin in 1970 as soon as he left school, at the age of 17.
After a senior staff member at James Hargest suffered a heart attack, Mr McCallum was called in to fill a gap because he “knew the school and the programme”.
“I was back there for four months. I was one of three guys who were used as emergency teachers and that went on for the three years of my degree. You did a lot of practical teaching in the classroom back then.”