Peter Atkinson draws a diagram of a heart on the chalkboard of the old Oak Bay High biology lab. His work in the new building and old is subject of at Great Teachers nomination. (Christine van Reeuwyk/Oak Bay News)

Youthful enthusiasm brings marine biology teacher to work with a smile

Oak Bay High’s Peter Atkinson among the nominees for this year’s Great Teachers

Peter Atkinson is a mainstay at Oak Bay High. He’s been teaching 25 years largely been in this community.

It’s a generational thing.

When Peter first became a teacher he scored a one-year contract at Oak Bay then headed for Africa for a couple years with wife Lorinda. When they returned he worked a year at Reynolds before shifting back to Oak Bay.

He taught across the hall from his dad for a year, before the elder Atkinson handed over the reins to Room 205 in 1996.

When Atkinson moved to the new Oak Bay High School building two years ago he brought the nameplate above the door, his big wooden desk and a lifetime of memories.

Black Press and Staples, in partnership with Camosun College, are proud to recognize some of the great teachers found here in the Capital Region. We asked our readers to nominate teachers who have gone above and beyond to make a difference in the lives of the students they teach. Atkinson was among those nominated in Oak Bay.

“Peter Atkinson teaches Marine Biology at Oak Bay and has been my daughter’s teacher for the past two years,” said nominator Naomi McKay. “I am told that his love of teaching was inherited from his father, also a teacher at OBHS. As a parent to a high school aged/independent student, I don’t have the same level of contact with her teachers as in prior years. However, regularly I hear from her about how much she loves Mr. Atkinson and how great he is as a teacher.”

He’s long been a rugby coach, having organized two international tours for young athletes to visit Wales, Ireland, Scotland and Argentina, and organizing a tour for next year to Spain and Portugal.

He’s been developing the Marine Biology course with colleagues and teaching it for over 10 years. Twice Atkinson took students to the Sea of Cortez where they had the chance to swim with Whale Sharks, Mobula Rays, release baby sea turtles, meet the local fishing communities.

“This was a life changing trip which solidified [my daughter’s] deep love of the ocean,” McKay said. “This trip would not have been possible had it not been for Mr. Atkinson’s enthusiasm and commitment.

“He is an amazing, inspiring and hardworking teacher and I am eternally grateful for his influence and guidance in my daughter’s life.”

These adventures are just the “extras,” the teacher says.

“Everyday interactions with enthusiastic, energetic young people is still brings me to work with a smile,” Atkinson said. “I have been really lucky to work in this school for so long as I have always had great colleagues and great kids to work with.”