"They obviously liked me 25 years ago!"
The 65-year-old retires from full-time teaching at Taupō Intermediate this Friday, after 34 years with the school.
John's first teaching jobs were at full primary schools in Te Teko and Ōtorohanga, but says he loves teaching 11 and 12-year-olds.
"When I first taught at Taupō Intermediate School, I realised that age group, it was me," says John.
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He has taught at Taupō Intermediate since 1985 and over that time held a number of additional roles as team leader, head of physical education, head of science and a spell as principal at Mōkai School.
Keen on the outdoors, John embraced the skiing, mountain biking and triathlon opportunities in Taupō and joined many sporting clubs.
He's proud of his Dutch heritage and culture - his father was in the Dutch Resistance during World War II and post-war the family travelled frequently between Holland, the USA and New Zealand.
The travel led to a delayed start to his own primary school education but by the age of 19 at Te Awamutu College John was in the rugby 1st XV, in the top teams for basketball, swimming and athletics and was top of tech drawing and geography. He wanted to complete his final year at school but was asked to leave due to his age.
"I turned 14 in year 8. I was kicked out of high school after year 12 because I would have turned 20!"
He did consider joining the forest service, but his true calling was teaching.
"I thought, oh I enjoy school. So I went back as a teacher."
Always working on his positivity and describing himself as an outgoing extrovert, John says he often shares what he thinks with his students and they have some really good class discussions. A sense of humour is paramount. His aim is to build a really good relationship with each student and he says he has learned the skills to relate to this age group.
"They are growing so fast in those two years they are at intermediate. You can see them grow from a young person and have a glimmer of their future path."
As a teacher he says behind the scenes he has an important role in shaping each student's attitude towards sport and learning, and just loves seeing the spark when a student 'gets it'. He says becoming a parent made him a far better teacher and gets a huge amount of satisfaction from the joy and positive feedback from his students.
"Plus it's only a five minute walk from home, and I have a good view from my classroom."
Seeing students use new skills he has taught them is gratifying.
"With this age group you may think what is being said is not being absorbed, but it is."
Over the decades he has seen positive changes in the school system and inspiration from management and principals.
Outside the curriculum, John has been involved with school triathlons, skiing and multi-sport and he says it's nice to be able to offer students these extras.
He likes the diversity among the students but is glad the school doesn't have to deal with the socio-economic problems seen in Auckland.
Speaking from 43 years' teaching experience he sees an ongoing challenge for parents struggling to find a happy balance between their kids being on technology and doing something else with their spare time.
He disagrees with the extent of the Ministry of Education data collection, saying the ministry is over-testing and thinks the new announcement about fees collection just throws up challenges for schools who now have to find an acceptable way to fundraise for things like school camp. He also considers the current New Zealand curriculum is too demanding for this age group.
"We are trying to throw a lot of curriculum stuff at young people, but their minds can only absorb so much. In the classroom the teacher ends up spending so much time on life skills that its easy to lose half an hour here or there."
He says there is better diagnosis available now for kids with conditions like ADHD.
"Schools need more [special needs] helping people. They really make a difference."
John says Taupō has been good for wife Suzie's nursing career and his children Sophie and Lucy greatly benefited from the schooling. He credits all the inspirational teachers, coaches and clubs his family have been involved with.
For his retirement he wants to train to be a master swimmer. He also plans on doing more gardening, more mountain biking, more midweek skiing, and seeing more of his family in Australia.
"I'll probably be back at Intermediate as a [teacher] reliever. But I won't be answering my phone on a good skiing day!"