Fish Hoek High School principal Gavin Fish, 57, has resigned and will officially bid the school farewell at the end of July 2021 after 11 years of service.
However, he will not be sitting around in his slippers watching TV.
He plans to establish a life-coaching practice, continue with his public speaking and publish a second volume of his book, Taming the Teenager.
He says long before Covid-19 he realised he was approaching “the end of a season of his life.”
His decision to resign wasn’t easy, he says, and his plans were delayed by the pandemic because he was determined to see the school through what he describes as the worst crisis it has ever faced.
He believes the vision he set for 2020 has been achieved.
“I am surrounded by exceptional senior management, dedicated educators, wonderful non-academic staff and a dedicated and supportive board of governors.
I have always wanted to leave a legacy of a new generation of educators to continue and to grow the school’s vision. I believe that that is already largely in place.”
Mr Fish attended Rondebosch Boys’ Preparatory School and Rondebosch Boys’ High School where he was head boy.
It was the guidance of three “exceptional” educators that inspired him to become an educator.
He obtained a BA in physical education at Stellenbosch University and completed his two-year military service afterwards.
In 1988, he started his career at Plumstead High School, where he taught physical education and history for Grades 8 to 12.
He also coached volleyball, athletics, ran the Christian Union and later became head of department.
“I had an exceptional 11 years at Plumstead High, and it was there where I became aware of my calling to help the youth.”
In 1999 he joined Muizenberg High School, rising to deputy principal.
During his time there, he fell in love with the Strandfontein community and had his hair cut for R17 at Boeta Ailee’s.
Mr Ailee was a well respected barber in the Strandfontein community “Having a Boeta Ailee haircut was the in thing back then.”
However, in 2004, Mr Fish’s life changed dramatically when he had a stroke at the age of 41.
He was left speechless and paralysed, he says, but he believes a miracle happened as he was cured 48 hours later.
After four months of convalescence, he returned to school. However, there was no miracle cure for the pace and everyday stresses he had to deal with and for a while, he feared he would have a stroke again.
This is when he realised he had to change – he had to adapt to education, as education was not going to adapt to him. He focused on his physical and spiritual health.
“I was also cared for by my phenomenal wife who understood what in sickness and in health meant. She was my rock during that time.”
And so as the deputy principal, he focussed on behavioural management and the practice of restorative discipline, which seeks to change rather than punish bad behaviour.
In 2007, he left Muizenberg High School to become Fish Hoek Middle School’s deputy principal.
Two years later, the middle school amalgamated with Fish
Hoek High School and he was appointed principal at the end of 2009.
This is when he established the 2020 vision for the school.
The 2020 vision was to maintain a school of academic excellence, offering a holistic education with many opportunities based on sound values.
“In a nutshell, we aimed to inspire teens to reach their full potential and to go on to impact society for good.”
To date, except for his stroke, he says his biggest challenge was to maintain “a sense of school” during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Among other things, he was worried about the health of pupils, parents and staff and how the salary cuts would impact his staff.
And while the remainder of his time at Fish Hoek High School will not be without challenges, he says he is looking forward to returning to more personal interactions.
“I believe that I still have a role to play in our broader community.”
Mr Fish is also an avid cyclist and prides himself in his bonsai collection.