Ask any current or former student to name one of his favourite teachers during their time at Westlake and you’ll find that many of them will mention longstanding staff member, captivating History and Social Science teacher and Westlaker, Simon Smith. This fact was highlighted at the end of last year when Simon was the recipient of the Westlake Boys Staff Travel Award – an award for staff members whose contribution to Westlake Boys High School is so significant that his/her efforts are considered to have enriched Westlake and make it a better place for everyone. The Staff Travel Award is intended to provide recipients with a noteworthy travel experience which will enhance their lives personally and professionally.
Simon started his Westlake journey as a third former, together with twin brother David in 1967, returned to join the teaching staff over 20 years later and has now taught at his school for almost a quarter of a century. He wasn’t completely sure what he wanted to do after finishing school so enrolled at the North Shore Teachers College looking for a job that would offer variety in his working day. His teaching career started off at Pakuranga Intermediate School where he taught for 3 years and for seven years travelled to Auckland University while completing his BA studies part-time.
A passionate sailor, Simon moved from dinghies to keelers whilst at Training College and sailed in many popular local ocean races of those days such as the Auckland to Suva and Whangarei to Noumea. He eventually ended up in England in 1979 and sailed in the Parmelia Race from England to Perth via the Southern Ocean taking out third place. This experience led to sailing the 1981 Whitbread Round the World Race as bowman, watch captain and helmsman on a maxi called “United Friendly”. The 81 Whitbread proved to be a tremendous 30,000 mile experience that included rounding Cape Horn and sailing amongst the icebergs of the Southern Oceans.
To get fit for the Whitbread Simon and then girlfriend (and now wife Sue) cycled from England to Crete via Holland, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Austria and Greece over a period of five months. One of the highlights of this trip was when an elderly Crete shepherd recognised Simon as a kiwi wearing the silver fern and invited him to share his very basic lunch. The man expressed his tremendous gratitude for the efforts of the New Zealand Division during WWII, in attempting to save their vital island from the Germans. It was a very proud moment for Simon both as an historian and New Zealander to recognise how much the efforts of his father’s generation were still vividly remembered and respected by locals.
In 1989, after having taught in Melbourne for seven years and competing in five Sydney to Hobart races, Simon and his young family returned to Auckland and he commenced his teaching years at Westlake. Currently Head of History and formerly a Dean and Deputy Headmaster, Simon has become a mainstay of the school’s Social Sciences department. As well as being a popular teacher, he has also impacted Westlake with his longstanding commitment to the school’s sailing teams. Over the past two decades Simon’s sailing teams have included several current and past New Zealand representatives such as Red Bull Youth America’s Cup sailor Jono Spurdle and 2007 Optimist World Champion Chris Steele. Simon has taught hundreds of students to love his subjects and to enjoy their time on the water. He is a well-respected member of our staff with a wicked sense of humour who helps to glue this school together.
Winning the Staff Travel Award will allow Simon to explore the way History is taught in New Zealand and overseas, with a particular emphasis on Scholarship and he is likely to utilise his award to travel to Europe and, amongst other activities, visit Gallipoli, D Day beaches and the WWI Western Front. He believes that his enriched knowledge of the area will benefit his students and colleagues for many years to come.
Westlakers congratulates Simon Smith on being the recipient of the 2013 Westlake Staff Travel Award and wishes him an enjoyable trip to Europe.
If you hear any news of Westlake Old Boys or former staff or if you are interested in supporting Westlakers events and activities, please contact Mrs Christine O’Dowd at school on 09 410 8667 or by email [email protected]