Retiring from Hastings Secondary College (HSC) in Port Macquarie is not the end of a lifetime education journey, according to executive principal Willem Holvast.
Mr Holvast is scheduled to take six months of long service leave on the last day of the school term, December 18 and will retire from the executive role after more than 20 years in Port Macquarie.
Originally from Howick in New Zealand, Mr Holvast moved with his family to Sydney in 1975 where he attended North Sydney Boys High School.
He would later attend the University of Sydney completing a Bachelor of Arts in Music, English Literature and German.
"I'd made up my mind when I was 10 years old that I loved music so much I was inspired to play the violin and sing," he said.
"I was quite set in following that path through and now I'm quite glad I did. As a student I was known for my passion for music, passion for English, all the performing groups and having a slightly bent sense of humour.
"After university my teaching career commenced in Plumpton and Mt Druitt as a music teacher, a violinist and a singer.
"I spent many years teaching music in the classroom including classical violin, bluegrass, jazz and other genres."
Mr Holvast married his wife, Frances and moved to Port Macquarie in 2000 as a school attendance officer. He would become deputy principal at Camden Haven High School in 2004 and a principal at Chatham High School in Taree by 2010.
"In 2016 I commenced as the executive principal here in Port Macquarie at Hastings Secondary College," he said.
"I was asked to apply for it because there were things I'd achieved in Taree which were noticed by people.
"There was a need for whole school leadership of both campuses which appealed to me. I had a vision for public education and my children went to the Port Macquarie campus.
"I had done a relieving stint as the principal at Port Macquarie campus in 2009 for a term and I was always drawn to public education in Port Macquarie.
"My own philosophy is that I don't draw a lot of attention to myself as the leader, I'm here to serve the college and the community so they can achieve the best they can.
"I'll do whatever needs to be done in terms of leadership, opportunities and funding to put things into place to make things happen. There's so much natural leadership in students and teachers that they don't need me in the limelight.
"The college is much greater than the sum of the parts. I see my own role only in the context of what we have done together."
During his time at the helm of the College it has excelled in robotics, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), sport, performing arts, Aboriginal education and graduating pathways.
Mr Holvast fondly remembers The Educator magazine naming Hastings Secondary College as one of nations top 20 innovative schools in 2016 and as a STEM action school in 2017.
"The standards for learning and student achievement are always on the rise. I suspect the groups of year 12s graduating this year are well ahead with technology and career skills than previous years," he said.
"There has been a fundamental shift from teaching students how to do a particular job, to teaching students the skills they need to take up any job or the jobs that will be there in the future.
"They are constantly moving in their career and that skill set needs to be moving to suit them as a 21st century citizen. That's the single biggest change in education and I'm really excited about that."
Mr Holvast said he sees a future for himself as a conduit between universities and high schools in Port Macquarie.
"What we provide here in Port Macquarie is completely essential for the community," he said.
"Every student that comes through the doors of Hastings Secondary College leaves with a very clear pathway to their own future as a valuable citizen of the community.
"In the past, students have had to leave Port Macquarie to follow their dreams in university or work but as the town grows we are now attracting universities and I'm watching the college flourish.
"Underneath it all I'm still a teacher who is really passionate about student learning. I'll come back somewhere in education perhaps involving students who are on professional experience as tertiary placements.
"I'd love to be able to come back and do some work with the college because I leave a large part of myself here. In the meantime I plan to work on my house in Bonny Hills, it is in dire need of renovating."
Hastings Secondary College Westport Campus principal Ian Ross will assume the position of relieving Executive Principal for 2020.
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