THIS week was a moment that Hans Stroeve had been looking forward, but also not looking forward to.
On Friday, after a 39-year career as a dedicated maths teacher, he finally put down the chalk, packed up his bag and went home.
Before he retired, Mr Stroeve had spent his entire teaching career at Kelso High School. He was there so long that he worked for eight principals and saw generations of families come through the gates.
It was a job he loved and he hopes he made an impact on students’ lives.
In his recent farewell speech to the school, he chose a Winnie the Pooh quote to sum up his time at the school.
“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
Kelso High School has been a constant in Mr Stroeve’s life for almost four decades, and the fact that he was there at all is something he still chuckles at.
Back in 1978 he had just completed his teacher’s degree at the University of Sydney and was due to start his first position the very next year.
I asked for ‘any school east of Bathurst’ and I got Kelso. I guess that’s east of Bathurst.
“I asked for ‘any school east of Bathurst’ and I got Kelso. I guess that’s east of Bathurst,” he laughs.
“I arrived in 1979 fresh to teaching as a spare and expecting to be moved on to another school at any time.
“As things turned out, this never happened and I’ve stayed at Kelso ever since.”
Not only has the school been a place filled with learning and teaching, it was also the place where he met his wife Wendy who was working there as an English/history teacher.
“Both our children graduated from Kelso High, most of my close friends are from Kelso High and every day I run into ex-students and parents from Kelso High,” Mr Stroeve said.
“The school has been a central and continuing theme in my life.”
Mr Stroeve always wanted to teach maths: “I was good at maths”.
“I think the key is to make the content, which is actually pretty dry, interesting; but also to show the relevance of it in the outside world,” he said.
“I like to see a smile on their [students] faces when they come in. If they’re happy to come to class, that’s half the battle.”
With regards to the negative reputation that maths receives from some students, Mr Stroeve said who your teacher was and how the subject was taught matters a lot.
I have rich memories of a rewarding career. I can look back on all of that with satisfaction and go forward happily into a world that isn’t run by bells.
“I think a lot of it goes on who you had as a teacher, you can still enjoy it even though you might not be good at it,” he said.
Mr Stroeve said every day as a teacher has brought him boundless joy.
“Throughout the course of a day, I get to be a ham actor, a teller of corny ‘dad’ jokes, a friend, a nurse, a life coach, a finder of lost things, a money lender, a taxi driver, a very amateur psychologist, a substitute parent, a salesman to a sometimes reluctant buyer, all while I’ve also tried to be a font of knowledge,” he said.
During his career his biggest influences have been his wife Wendy and their two sons Alex, 27, and Evan 24.
However, the time has come where Mr Stroeve said he is tired and he has had enough of the grind of endless paperwork.
“I hope I’ve made a difference to people’s lives,” he said of the many students he has taught.
And, he said, there is a lot to look forward to in the future.
“Aside from a little bit of teaching and tutoring at Kelso [High] on Wednesday, I know I’m a tragic, I aim to have the odd sleep in, read the pile of books waiting for me, get a bit fitter, have regular lunch dates with my wife Wendy and maybe even a round of golf,” he said.
“I have rich memories of a rewarding career. I can look back on all of that with satisfaction and go forward happily into a world that isn’t run by bells.”