In this week's 'Where are they now?', Denis and Nola Smith.

Class act: This week for 'Where are they Now?' we catch up with Nola and Denis Smith, who spent 30 years teaching in Esperance. Photo: Supplied.

Class act: This week for 'Where are they Now?' we catch up with Nola and Denis Smith, who spent 30 years teaching in Esperance. Photo: Supplied.

For thirty years Esperance was privileged to have two great teachers in Nola and Denis Smith, whose aim and motivation in their teaching was to inspire and make a difference in the lives of their students.

Nola Coyle grew up in Kalgoorlie, one of 9 children. As the fourth child, and first to leave home, it was a wrench to leave her noisy, close-knit family in order to gain a teaching diploma.

After three years in Perth she applied to teach in the Goldfields and was shocked when appointed to Castletown Primary School, not realising that Esperance was part of the Goldfields region.

However, she loved the school, the students, their families and fellow teachers and her six years there were rewarding and stimulating.

Denis Smith was born and raised in Waroona, with one sister and many cousins to share the bush environment that he has always loved.

After graduating as Dux of Pinjarra High School Denis was, like Nola, the first in his family to be able to take advantage of the free education of that era and studied at the WA School of Mines in Kalgoorlie, graduating as an Extractive Metallurgist in 1975. Although enjoying the practical work, conditions in the mining camps were poor and he made the decision to become a Science teacher and after completing a Dip Ed was appointed to Collie SHS. Two years later he applied for a position in the north of the state and was sent to Esperance!

Thus, it was serendipity that Nola and Denis met at a social gathering to welcome new teachers and within a short time were engaged, married and raising four sons on a bush block where the boys could run free and enjoy freedom, in a town their parents describe as “the best place in the world to live and raise children.”

Throughout this time Denis remained committed to teaching, conveying his own excitement about learning new things to his students.

In his experience making a connection with a student is the most important first step and is the foundation of good teaching/learning relationships, which also applies to working relationships with parents and colleagues.

When Nola returned to teaching following maternity leave, it was to a position at Esperance Primary School, working with two administrators she greatly admires in Bill Grogan and Charlie Osmetti.

It was during this time that Tournament of Minds was instigated by Nola and Denis in their respective schools.

The success of Esperance teams in State and National competitions over the years has been testament to the foresight and dedication of Nola and Denis.

Seeing TOM develop from its initial small roots to being a significant part of the academic culture of Esperance had been a highlight of their careers.

Being named Science Teacher of the Year in 2004 was another career high for Denis and for Nola it was working with a group of dedicated students ( Esperance Energisers) who were so passionate about the environment and climate change they developed an educational program that saw them as a finalist for the Eureka Science Awards in Sydney.

With their sons, Matt, Brad, Elliott and Grayden having received excellent education at Esperance PS and ESHS it was not surprising that, with their father’s passion for science, they would follow a similar path with two becoming engineers, one a doctor and another a geologist.

In 2010, wishing to be closer to the boys, Nola and Denis made the very difficult decision to move to Perth.

Denis’ abilities were recognised and rewarded when he was appointed Head of Physical Science at Rossmoyne SHS, a high performing school of 2150 students.

The appointment as Foundation Deputy of Aubin Grove PS seven years ago, working alongside admired Principal, Frank Pansini has been professionally rewarding for Nola. Last year Frank was named Principal of the Year and Aubin Grove Primary School of the Year.

With Nola soon joining Denis in retirement, they are looking forward to spending more time with their family, that now includes two grand children. They will return more regularly, joining friends on camping trips and revisiting the lifestyle they enjoyed for so long.

Read about the careers and lives of the four Smith boys in the next article of “ Where Are They Now?”