Simon Smith, English and Classical Studies teacher at Horowhenua College is retiring after 46 years. He leaves on a high note as the successful coach of the college's winning Jimmy Carter Quiz team for 2018.

Simon also has academic achievements outside of the classroom, including winning New Zealand Mastermind in 1982 and he was Sale of The Century champion in 1986.

He represented New Zealand in both competitions globally, placing fourth in the International Mastermind in 1983.

"My brother had competed on Mastermind and won a free trip to Auckland, so I thought why not enter and see how far I can go," he said.


Smith's specialist subject for Mastermind was Napoleon III, which he chose mainly because they shared the same birthday.

"He is an interesting character, often overlooked", he said. "Without him, we wouldn't have the International Red Cross or pasteurised milk. The Suez Canal wouldn't have been built either."

Smith loves travelling, and recalls hitchhiking from Spain to Greece in 1977, with mixed experiences.

"I was tear gassed in Spain, arrested for hitchhiking on the French motorway and hassled at the border checkpoint into Yugoslavia. I love travelling though. It widens the mind and narrows the wallet.

"I would like to go to most places, even if it was just to see how they live. If I was in the middle seat on a plane, I would want to be between a person from Germany and Central Asia, as I have found both people particularly interesting."

In over four decades of teaching, Mr Smith has had only 30 days off, and has encountered some well-known figures both inside and outside the classroom.

"I went to the same school as Sam Neill, who took an interest in the accuracy of my French homework, which wasn't always correct.

"I have taught former All Blacks Hika Reid, Codie Taylor and Buck Shelford. All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster was a student at Forest View High School in Tokoroa while I was teaching there. While in London on my OE in 1977, I was a chauffeur for former England cricket captain Ted Dexter, 50s and 60s pop star Johnnie Ray, and former goalkeeper for Northern Ireland Pat Jennings.

Simon's favourite teaching moments include the Classical Studies course he set up at the college, teaching Spanish and German to Year 7 and 8 students at Cheviot Area School, teaching the Crusades at Western Heights High School in Rotorua and 19th century European History at the now defunct Wainuiomata College.

"The girls were smarter," he says.

But Simon will not be lost to the youth of Horowhenua, as he looks forward to relief teaching. He also looks forward to travelling, reorganising the garden and the long weekends. He also wants to work out how to win Lotto.

His wisdom for today's students: "Learn as much as you can and go out of your comfort zone. Short-term goal-setting is important. The world changes constantly and things might go wrong through no fault of your own."
*Oliver Bau is a Horowhenua College student interested in journalism.