In the Whangārei Primary music room lie hints of how long music teacher George Karklins has taught there.

Tucked away in the corner are yellow glockenspiels which are at least 15-years-old, on a shelf are stacks of photos of students who attended the school in the 90s and early 2000s, and when asked if he has sheet music to photograph he pulls out a folder from 1999.

After 30 years and two terms teaching at Whangārei Primary School, Karklins - or Mr K as he is better known by - is leaving.

"It's time to try different pastures, move on and just do something different," he says.

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Mr K started teaching at Whangārei Primary at the end of 1987 and spent eight years in a classroom before becoming the music teacher.

"That was thanks to Mr Peter Watt, the principal of that day," he says.

"He was awesome, he had a vision for me. I kept on splitting my class up and taking the orchestra and choir - I had an interest in music - and that's what happened.

"He suggested that would I like to try just teaching music? I think it was going to be a year trial, but it's been going for 22 years and two terms."

George Karklins - better known as Mr K - is leaving Whangārei Primary after 30 years. Photo/John Stone
George Karklins - better known as Mr K - is leaving Whangārei Primary after 30 years. Photo/John Stone

Over those 22-and-a-half years Mr K has taught "hundreds and hundreds" of students and has made a lasting impression on many of them, including this reporter.

I started Whangārei Primary School as a 5-year-old in 1999 and finished aged 10 in 2004. I was a member of the choir - I can't hold a note now, and I probably couldn't then - and the orchestra - I played the coolest instrument out, the glockenspiel - and I remember Mr K being a fun, energetic teacher.

You could tell how much he loved music, and even now his eyes light up speaking about it.

"I was given a guitar before intermediate - a little wee Suzuki guitar - and I just played it. My mother used to play harmonica and my father had a sister - I've never met her - who was a concert pianist. There was lots of music in the house," he says.

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George Karklins in 2009 leading the Northland Kiwileles. Photo/File
George Karklins in 2009 leading the Northland Kiwileles. Photo/File

As a student at Whangārei Intermediate School he joined the guitar group, and when he attended Whangārei Boys' High School he joined the band.

Then when he went to Teachers Training College in Dunedin in 1973 he took music as a selective and learned piano. Once he discovered the notes were the same as the guitar, he picked things up pretty easily.

"It just happened - I learned guitar, I learned piano, I learned ukelele, I learned to play bass guitar, I could play the recorder.

"I'd like to learn the saxophone and the drums. Because you've got the rhythm inside you, and the beat inside you, I can play those instruments but I'm not trained as a drummer," he says.

The ukeleles in George Karklins' music room. Photo/John Stone
The ukeleles in George Karklins' music room. Photo/John Stone

Mr K can't remember what his first year as a music teacher was like but is sure it would have been "fantastic".

When I ask what kept him at Whangārei Primary for so long, he says "the music".

"When you see the lights go on in the children and they want to learn - that is the most amazing thing. And when what I have to say or show them is valued - it makes it worth doing."

In addition to his in-school music lessons, Mr K also teaches guitar and ukelele on Fridays and Saturdays at the school and will continue doing that when he leaves. He has also been teaching music at Parua Bay School once a week.

But on April 10 Mr K will have his last day as Whangārei Primary's music teacher.

He says it's time for him to move on and when he found out the building which houses his music room was going to be pulled down, he took it as a sign.

"I think I want to keep teaching music if I can, and I'll have a long holiday if I have to. But I love teaching music, I actually do."

During his 30 years at Whangārei Primary School Mr K has written farewell songs for many teachers and principals. Now, it's his turn to be farewelled.