Tony Watson had planned on taking a sabbatical from teaching when his oldest son was a senior in college.
But then he remembered where Tony II attended school.
“He was at the University of Buffalo, where it’s so cold,” said Watson, a Royal Palm Beach resident who teaches P.E. at Forest Hill High School and also coaches the school’s boys varsity basketball team. “I told him I couldn’t do Buffalo. It’s too cold up there. I’m a Riviera Beach guy.”
Watson remained in Florida, where he was in the midst of building a decades-long perfect attendance streak.
A 31-year teaching veteran who has spent the past 15 years in Palm Beach County, Watson, 54, hasn’t missed a day of work in 21 years.
The streak began in Jacksonville, where the Palm Beach Gardens High School and Jacksonville University graduate taught at Paxon High School and Jefferson Davis Middle School.
Watson returned to Palm Beach County in 2003 to take a job as a teacher and basketball coach at his alma mater and later taught at Lake Worth High, Roosevelt Middle, Wellington High and John F. Kennedy Middle before arriving at Forest Hill in 2016.
He showed up for work every day.
“As the saying goes, ‘When you love your job, you never have to work again,’” Watson said.
Watson has had some help in maintaining his streak.
A father of six, he credits his wife, Christina, for pitching in when their kids were sick and had to stay home from school.
Watson also postponed a pair of knee surgeries until summer break, and would show up for work even when he wasn’t feeling his best.
“There hasn’t been a day where I couldn’t go in,” he said. “That’s one of the blessings I thank God for. No matter how sick I’ve been, I’ve always been well enough to make it to work and get through the day.”
Watson, whose milestone will be noted Wednesday by the school district, admits there have been plenty of events he’s missed because of his work obligations.
But he believes it’s important for his three youngest kids — ages 15, 8 and 3 – to understand the importance of commitment.
“I want to see how long I can make it through, because I like to use this as a motivation to my kids,” Watson said. “Here’s something they can put their mind to and stick to it, get things done.”