At the tender age of 22 Wally Hamer started his teaching career with the Seaside School District. He taught eighth-graders at Broadway Junior High. "I had about the same maturity level as the kids," Hamer jokes.
"Actually, later on I became good friends with a lot of those kids when they were out of school," he continues. "That first bunch of eighth-graders was a neat group - Danny McDonald, Don Braun, Tom Jardine, Julie Pucket (Johnson) ... I still play tennis with a lot of those guys."
Now 30 years later - and literally thousands of students later - Hamer has decided to retire.
Hamer's father, also Walter, was a teacher and coach, too. "When I was growing up, my dad would invite his teams over to the house," says Hamer. "I remember how special that was - for the players and for my dad," he continues. "I knew then that that was the sort of work I wanted to get into and I'm glad I did. It's been great."
Until last year when Wally and his wife Ginny retired from coaching the girls' varsity basketball team, it was a tradition for the entire team to come over to their house for a meeting before all the home games.
Over the years Hamer has coached football, boys' and girls' basketball, girls' softball, wrestling and track. He's coached baseball through the Seaside Kids organization, too. He's also been Seaside High School's athletic director.
He's been a standout teacher, as well. At a recent retirement banquet, longtime Seaside baseball coach Jim Auld described Wally as a true professional. "A lot of people might be satisfied teaching the same health lesson year after year," Auld said. "But Wally has kept up on all the latest research in health education. He has never been content to teach the same stuff year after year."
When it comes to exercise, Hamer practices what he preaches.
Fifteen years ago, Wally and several others decided to start morning basketball at the high school. These pick-up games would begin at 6:30 in the morning. Teachers from the district as well as community members have been coming in two to three times a week ever since it began. Over 100 different people have participated. All who play agree that Wally is the glue that holds the whole thing together. It's not always pretty basketball, but it's a guaranteed workout. In fact last year after one of the games, Mike Hawes said, "You know what guys? We've gotta improve just to suck!"
Wally says he's proud to be teaching with former students at the high school and the feeling is mutual. Seaside High School math teacher Mitch Ward has fond memories of being a student in Wally's classes. "He made you feel good about yourself and your abilities," he says.
Another former student, Jason Boyd, is now a social studies teacher and head volleyball coach.
"Wally is the kind of teacher that makes you want to come to school," says Boyd. "He's knowlegeable and caring and puts everybody else first. His ability to lead and empower kids is unmatched," he continues. "And, he's got a great outside shot," Boyd adds with a smile.
Seaside High School wrestling coach Chuck Mattocks also spoke about Hamer at the recent retirement banquet. "He steps in and leads on a number of fronts," he said. "To use a basketball metaphor, Wally is the consumate point guard."