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Bury St Edmunds teacher retires after 22 years at same school

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A Bury St Edmunds teacher is retiring today after a ‘challenging but rewarding’ career spanning almost 35 years.

Chris Smeaton has taught at South Lee School in Nowton Road for 22 years and worked as a supply teacher at many of the town’s middle schools before that, predominantly at Westley and St James.

On Tuesday, the 58-year-old said his impending retirement was ‘just starting to hit home’.

“It’s gone in a blink of an eye – it really feels that way. I watched a nursery production this morning and I can’t believe it’s the last one.”

He added: “I’ve been in the job almost 35 years and worked in lots of different places, the majority of the time here at South Lee, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.

“Every year’s different because, of course, the kids are different, so that’s always kept it interesting and really enjoyable.

“Even though I’ve been in the same school it’s been an adventure, but it’s time to hang up my marker pen.”

Originally from Yorkshire, Mr Smeaton began his career at a Bradford school where English was not the first language of many of his pupils.

“It was very interesting because the children were from difficult backgrounds but I enjoyed every minute,” said the father-of-one who became ‘lifelong friends’ with his Bradford mentor, Stan Clegg.

He went on to teach in Indonesia where, as a keen scuba diver, he had planned to make the most of diving in warm water.

He spent about five years working at a ‘jungle school’ in Brunei, where he met his wife, Tia, before moving to a language school in Jakarta.

Mr Smeaton’s retirement plans include helping out at Parigi Tiga, a primary school in a rural area west of Jakarta.