“70 is Not the End of the World,” Says Mr. Holt

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“70 is Not the End of the World,” Says Mr. Holt

Yonatan Lopez, Contributor

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The first thing you see as you walk into class is an old, grumpy looking teacher. With one look from the teacher, you get a cold shivering feeling down your spine. It feels like you’ve done something wrong that pissed him off. Although you have done nothing, you want to be on his best side. This worry comes back every now and then. However, not all first impressions are correct.

Mr. Holt has been teaching at San Rafael High School since 2001. Unfortunately, in 2019, he will be retiring. He started off teaching wood shop and then finally ended up starting the APT program in 2003. He will miss this and plans to do something else that will keep him busy.

Mr. Temple, who teaches in the Academy of Physics and Technology (APT) program with Holt, says that Holt is a very generous, sensitive and compassionate person. He enjoys working with him. Temple’s weakness are Holt’s strengths, he says. Temple started to bond with him at the beginning of APT.

“He has such a diverse background, it will blow you guys away,” said Temple.

Students from APT thought Holt was a grumpy, strict teacher the first time they saw him. As his students got to know him, Holt was the opposite of what they thought of him before.

Mr. Holt is 70 years old. He was born and raised in San Francisco and drafted into the Vietnam War. He has faced the deaths of many family members and dealt with many surgeries.

During childhood, he fished at Fisherman Wharf and grew up with siblings, a sister and a brother. His mother was the typical 50s housewife, he says. His father was the angriest person he had ever met, to the point that it drove him away. They are all deceased. He never had close relationships with his family except with his wife, kids, and grandkids.

“I wouldn’t say my family life was a family…it was more of a commune.”

Holt wasn’t a great student. By the time he graduated from high school, he was making way more money than his teachers because he managed a sporting goods store on Geary Blvd. He got his Associates of Arts degree at City College of San Francisco (CCSF) and his teaching credential at UC Berkeley. He likes to say that he got his B.A. at Whatsamatta U. Holt likes telling jokes like this. At CCSF, he was really interested in tools. He enjoys working with tools, a love he’s brought to the Physics Academy.

He was drafted into the Vietnam War after his time at CCSF. Mr. Holt prefers not to talk about his experience in the war. He told me that it was rare for him to talk about it. He participated in the war, however, he didn’t go to Vietnam. Holt served for six long years, 1970-1976. He told me that he couldn’t change how long he was going to be in the military. Holt didn’t have the intention to shoot people but he did want to serve his country. He managed to talk the senator of California, Alan Cranston, to change his role in the war. Holt did this before receiving the draft notice.

He became a medic and provided psychiatric aid in the states, for most of the time.The war took an emotional toll on him. There was one duty that really changed him. He was the elevator guard at Fort Sam Houston Texas. During this duty, he saw GIs that were severely disfigured by friendly fire napalm. He saw soldiers, who had injected a lot of morphine, jump to their deaths in to the elevator shaft. He never forgot this and it scarred him for the rest of his life.

Holt has had a lot of surgeries on nearly his whole body. Also, he was lucky enough to survive a pulmonary embolism. Holt had an accident that kept him out of his job at SRHS last year. He was going out for a swim class at the Osher Marin Jewish Community Center (JCC). Holt tripped on a bumper and fell on the sidewalk. It fractured his spine. He needed an MRA (magnetic resonance angiogram). The day was pretty hot and it caused the MRAs to stop working. The doctors had to drug him to numb the pain. But Holt had a high tolerance for drugs and pain. Once he healed, he had a rough time learning to walk again because he had been on his back for a long time.

Mr. Holt really likes to give all that he has learned to others. When he was young during middle school, he was known as ‘The Judge.’ If there was a problem he would try and resolve that problem. Even before he was teaching professionally, he said, “The thing I can do is to pass it on.”

After work, he likes to sit in his carport in his car for a few minutes to transition into his daily life. He likes to garden. He is a pretty good cook and he doesn’t own any pets. He does do chores around the house. His wife does the shopping and he cooks with anything she brings home. He likes to do his own laundry.

Holt will miss what he has done with APT. The thing he won’t miss is the toilet paper at SRHS because it’s not the best kind. After retiring from this job, he plans to keep helping Mr. Temple. Holt looks forward to what the future holds for him.

“Seventy is not the end of the world.”