Teacher exits after 'fab four' decades

GEOFF LEWIS
Last updated 05:00 05/12/2013
Peter Thomas
CHRIS HILLOCK/ Fairfax NZ
BREAK EARNED: Peter Thomas is retiring after a 41 teaching career at Hillcrest High School.

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By all accounts, Peter Thomas is a character.

Some of those accounts involve his bowling practice with oranges in the staff room, or the way he belted out Beatles numbers at school functions.

Now, after 41 years at Hillcrest High School, he has decided to call it a day.

Thomas was encouraged to pursue teaching as a career while travelling in England. He worked as a barman and waiter, and, for intellectual stimulation, undertook a course in education at the Norwich City College.

He subsequently trained at Auckland University and Auckland Teachers College, joining the staff at Hillcrest in 1973, a year after it opened.

Thomas, who was at times fifth and seventh form dean, specialised in teaching history and classical philosophy. He also actively supported school sports.

Cricket was one fascination and Thomas led a Waikato-based secondary school girls cricket squad to Australia in the mid-1990s. Over the years he has seen many students come and go. His own three children attended the school.

Hillcrest assistant principal Sue Radford said Thomas was a well-known school identity, a general card known as the "John Cleese" of Hillcrest for his antics and love of singing Beatles songs karaoke-style.

Ten years ago he learned he was a type-2 diabetic after suffering a heart attack during a dinner.

"I'd just finished singing I Want to Hold Your Hand and I wasn't feeling very good.

"All the men around me were just laughing it off as a bit of indigestion. It was the ladies that realised what was happening."

His wife, Philippa, is a clinical psychologist.

Thomas, a keen cyclist, intends to spend his retirement pursuing interests in research, spending more time with his grandchildren, and he has offered his services as a relief teacher.

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- Fairfax Media

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