A former teacher of Blakehurst High School has been remembered as one of the school’s ‘favourite sons’ – and a school he described as his second family.
Long-time Hurstville resident, Allan Smyth, died of mesothelioma, at age 69, on July 16, 2018. Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that can develop decades after exposure to asbestos.
Mr Smyth was a student of Blakehurst High in the 1960s, and became a mathematics teacher at the school, where he taught for more than 35 years.
He was in the very first student intake at Blakehurst High after it opened.
Mr Smyth won a university scholarship to study a Bachelor of Science Degree with a major in Mathematics, and a Diploma of Education.
Before he retired in 2009, he also ran the school’s chess club, maths competitions, and coached football and cricket teams.
But his real love was helping students boost confidence in the classroom, and aspire to careers they would only dream of.
Mr Smyth embraced digital technology in its early years, developed academic merit programs for the school, and encouraged gifted and struggling students to achieve their best.
He also wrote software to calculate the ‘10 Best Units’ (now known as the ATAR) for the school’s HSC trials.
Former colleague and friend, John Cairns, recalls how his long-time friend was also a positive staff mentor, describing him as a ‘go-to guy’ – especially for young and new-to-the-job teachers.
“All Allan ever wanted to do was become a teacher. And when he did he was a great one,” Mr Cairns said.
“Al said he was fortunate enough to do the one thing he loved to do, and that was teach.
“He willingly gave out his spare time generously and selflessly in helping his students and mentoring other teachers when they sought advice.
“The lives of many former students, parents and teachers have been touched by his teaching career, for he was certainly one of the characters of the school community.
“He would on occasion wear different coloured sock (usually red and white in support of the St George Illawarra Dragons, just to see whether the kids noticed.”
Outside of the classroom, Mr Smyth developed a passion for space exploration. He would spend many evenings watching the night’s sky, learning about sun patterns, planets and the moon. He also enjoyed trekking outdoors, where he would eagerly study rock minerals and fossils.
“Al was one of the original geeks long before geeks were a thing,” Mr Cairns said.
“He told a dear friend not long after his diagnosis he felt he had a good life and had done what he loved and that was teaching. But that his one regret was he wouldn't be around to see the solar eclipse in 2028 after seeing three solar eclipses.”
His funeral was held on July 24 at Woronora.