When Mr. Smith first walked in to North Toronto Collegiate, he was young, had a full head of hair, and two working legs. After thirty three years at the school, and none of the above, he has decided to retire.
Mr. Smith began his years at NT as a temporary
Phys-Ed substitute in 1979. In that year, a litre of gas cost 23 cents, the
Pittsburgh Steelers won their 4th Super bowl, and two top songs were the well
known disco tunes “I Will Survive” and “Le Freak” by Chic. Soon after arriving,
Mr. Smith was offered a position as a full time Phys-Ed teacher, and so the
Back in his prime Mr Smith wasn’t quite like you know him today. In school, he was
quite the athlete. He played on the high school football and basketball teams
and was also an OFSAA cross country champion. His success in these sports was
recognized when he received The Athlete of The Year Award in his graduating
year at Jarvis Collegiate. Mr Smith went to the University of Waterloo to study
Kinesiology. While there, he played for the Waterloo Warriors football team. It
was while playing football at university that his long and interesting history
of knee problems began. Little did he know, his first knee injury would snowball, and it would be the butt of many jokes for 40 years.
Mr. Smith is extremely well known in the TDSB. He has convened multiple sports
leagues, most frequently basketball and baseball. At one time he was President
of the TDSB Athletics Association. He seems to know every coach of the teams he
competes against, many of the referees, and the sports writers who scribble
down his witty post game remarks. Not only is Mr Smith well known, he is
incredibly well liked.
At school, Mr. Smith has coached many sports teams, most notably the boys’
baseball and basketball teams. He was also defensive coach of the football
team, coach of the girls’ basketball team, and coach of the curling and golf
teams. Athletes describe him as a player’s coach. He loves nothing more than to see his athletes succeed, but he’s not afraid to let you know where you need to improve. After years of coaching other people’s children, he was finally able to coach his own son
Owen, and daughter, Jinty.
In the staff community at North Toronto, Mr. Smith is a huge contributor. He is
constantly organizing social events and slipping notes into staff mailboxes
about lunches at the Duke of Kent. He organises playoff hockey pools and the
Masters Golf tournament pools. The staff I spoke to say he is an incredible
contributor to the morale of all the teachers at the school. Sometimes teachers
look forward to staff meetings simply because they can’t wait to hear what he
has to say. Mr Hood says, “Things will be very different when he leaves.”
He is a natural speaker and M.C. with an amazing sense of humour and quick wit.
“Sometimes pulling teeth is easier than getting the microphone out of his
hands” said Mr Russell.
I was the subject of one of his roasts at commencement this year. He has the
uncanny ability to simultaneously make you feel better about yourself, and
laugh at yourself. I can say it was quite an honour to be roasted by Mr. Smith.
It would have been pretty easy for Mr. Smith to have decided to retire when
construction of the new school began 5 years ago. He knew the next 4 years
would be quite a challenge, especially for the Phys-Ed department which runs
the second most number of sports team in the TDSB. Despite this he decided to
stay. Facilities at the old school were already subpar, and as soon as
construction began we lost our field. Many gym classes and team practises took
place at Eglinton Park. It was a logistical nightmare for the Phys-Ed office;
they didn’t have much to work with. Mr Smith, the department head known for
never losing his cool, made things work.
Mr.Smith also stayed stayed because he felt an incredible amount of attachment to
the school and its community, and felt he should see the transition through. He
was instrumental in the planning of the school’s new athletic facilities, and
has advocated for many of the things we take for granted in athletics today.
After giving as much as Mr. Smith has to North Toronto, he deserves a wonderful
retirement. He plans to move up to his newly renovated Huntsville cottage and
spend time with his wife Nora. I’ve heard there may even be plans in the works
to buy a pick-up truck, a perfect match for the laid back northern lifestyle.
The couple will also look forward to travelling the world on Mr. Smith’s brand
new knee. Let’s hope he’s able to avoid multiple cavity searches when the new
metal plate in his knee continues to set off airport security.
There was graffiti on the side of the old school that read “Mr Smith was alright”. As much as he was alright, Mr Smith has been an incredible coach, mentor, friend and colleague. Every time I see him he makes me smile – I’m going to miss that. He is truly an outstanding role model for students and teachers alike and an inspiration to us all. Take it easy on that knee Mr. Smith, enjoy your retirement; you deserve it.