Des Duthie is looking forward to sharing his love of learning with students. Photo: Judene Edgar.

Education is the adventure for Des


Expeditions to Antarctica, rafting trips to South America, and rubbing shoulders with vikings are the sort of travels that people dream of, but former Nelson College staff member Des Duthie still says his greatest adventure is teaching.

While still at high school, Des knew that he wanted to be a teacher, but some amazing opportunities along the way have seen him on many exciting adventures, that all add to his unique teaching style and knowledge.

After leaving the University of Natal in South Africa with a Bachelor of Science majoring in physics and mathematics, he was offered the opportunity to join an expedition to Antarctica as a physicist.

“I had the most amazing job,” he says. “I’d go out every night during winter and watch the sky and use a light-sensitive camera to record the aurora lights.”

After completing his PhD, based on his Antarctica research, Des got the opportunity to join a rafting trip from South Africa to South America. 

Unfortunately, they only lasted three weeks at sea but that didn’t stop him.

“I bought a ticket to South America and spent a year there,” he says.

His wanderlust also saw him travel to Scandinavia, Norway, Turkey, Thailand and Canada, before returning to Antarctica, this time as leader of the expedition. 

Yet another adventure, this time spending three months in New Zealand, saw Des shift here in 1992.

His first two years were spent working at the small Inangahua College in Reefton, where he got the moniker ‘Doc D’. 

He then shifted to Richmond where he taught at Nelson College for 16 years.

While there, he was “famous” for hitch-hiking to school every day, and ran the regional Science and Technology Fair for over 10 years. An award in his name recognises his phenomenal contribution to the region’s future scientists.

But his wanderlust got the better of him once again and in 2012 he set sail for new adventures in Rarotonga, as head of science for Tereora College.

“I cycled to school every morning,” he says.

“I just had a magnificent time.”

While the relaxed lifestyle was a clear highlight of his time there, another highlight was taking in his telescope so that the students could watch Venus transit across the sun, as first predicted by astronomers over 150 years ago.

But Des says that while he was ready to leave full-time teaching behind, he wasn’t ready to leave teaching altogether.

“I love the challenge of explaining difficult concepts and ideas to children and helping them use that understanding to learn further,” Des says.

“Once they start understanding they start to enjoy learning and their confidence builds.”

Settling back in Richmond, ‘Doc D’ now runs a tutoring service for intermediate and secondary school students in maths, physics, chemistry and English. 

He says that throughout his 30 years of teaching, he often found that students would get help “too late”, often just before exams, whereas usually it’s better to have on-going support.

To find out more about Doc D’s tutoring email [email protected] or phone 022 695 4835.