Hout Bay High School is already missing the presence of one its stalwarts, John Stuurman, who retired at the end of last term.
The school bade farewell to Mr Stuurman, 60, last month after 32 two years of service. Renowned for his passion for mathematics, information technology and sport, Mr Stuurman was a popular figure at the school.
“I taught at Sentinel Primary before moving to Hout Bay High when it was built. It has been a long journey, but an enjoyable one,” he said this week.
“I ended up teaching the children of people I had taught before, which was a big help for me as I already knew the family.”
When he started teaching, Hout Bay – and Hangberg in particular – was a very different place, as many more parents were employed than is the case now.
“The parents had jobs and we were able to engage with them better. As people lost their jobs, things like drugs crept into the community, making it more difficult for us as teachers. There have been many changes, and as teachers we have had to adapt.”
By all accounts, including his own, Mr Stuurman was a stickler for “pure” maths, rather than maths literacy which entered the syllabus in the latter part of his career.
“I was always proud that my first matric class obtained a 100% pass rate in pure maths.”
Outside of the classroom, the veteran teacher was heavily involved with athletics and cricket.
“When I used to see the kids playing cricket on the playground, I would always grab the bat so they could bowl to me. Obviously as you get older you can’t see the ball as well anymore,” he quipped.
Mr Stuurman also loved the family fun days hosted at the school, where performers like The Rockets were a staple.
“I was very fortunate to have great staff around me. We always supported each other. It has been exciting to see new teachers entering the school. It’s good to give younger people a chance. They have been trained differently, so they will bring fresh ideas to the school.”
Mr Stuurman intends taking a few months off to relax and travel but has no intention of “sitting at home” in his retirement.
“I’ve already had a call to ask if I would be interested in developing textbooks and I would like to get involved in cricket again. You know it gets to Sunday night now, and I still find it strange that I’m not preparing lessons for the week. Then I realise that I can stay up to watch the late movie.”
Hout Bay High principal Juan Julius said Mr Stuurman had a wonderful relationship with the pupils.
“He is a no-nonsense kind of person, but he showed a lot of love for the children. He understood their upbringing. The school has a definite code of conduct, but he understood if children were wearing items of clothing that were not part of the uniform in order to keep warm.”
Absenteeism, Mr Julius said, was not part of Mr Stuurman’s vocabulary. “If he stayed at home, you knew he was seriously sick.
“It was also an honour having him in our computer section. If staff had problems with technology and computers, he was always there to help. We really miss him, but we won’t be selfish and say he doesn’t deserve a break.
“We wish him and his family all the best for his retirement. The teachers, learners and parents of Hout Bay High salute him for being such a great person.”
School bursar Sharon Wagner started at the school the same time as Mr Stuurman, and said it was “sad to see him go”.
“He always believed in Hout Bay’s children, saying they just needed a push to go the extra mile. He was not just a colleague. I would say he moulded my life in so many ways. I picked up a lot of life skills from him. I don’t even think he realises the impact he had on me,” she said.
Henry Botha, a colleague of Mr Stuurman for 20 years, always marvelled at his “inquisitiveness”.
“He always liked to learn and find out how things work. This rubbed off on those around him. He played a big part in my life. You gained knowledge by being around him.”