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Meet PE teacher: Aniel Smith

Joining the ACG Strathallan team in 2022, PE specialist Aniel Smith is a true sporting superstar. Promoting an environment of enthusiasm, excitement, teamwork and perseverance, the highly-accomplished athlete loves to see his young students achieve their personal best as they tackle new activities, challenges and skills. 
Meet PE teacher: Aniel Smith

It’s widely acknowledged that ACG teachers are experts in their fields, and PE teacher Aniel Smith is certainly no exception. In addition to his 13 years of teaching experience, he has enjoyed well over a decade of athletic and triathlon success both here and overseas. His outstanding sporting achievements and passion for physical education help him inspire and encourage students of all abilities to give their best in the sports and recreation arena.

Aniel, can you please give us a brief outline of your teaching background?
My first five years were spent teaching in West Auckland, where I am originally from, then I spent three years teaching English in Japan and four years at St Cuthbert’s College. I also spent a year working as a PE specialist for Victoria Avenue School in Remuera. 

Having now joined the ACG Strathallan teaching team in 2022, I was attracted to the school by the amazing grounds and location, plus I’d heard great things about it from past teachers who I’d worked with.

What appeals to you about teaching PE as a subject?
The most rewarding part of PE is that everyone can do it at their own pace and according to their own level of ability. I love seeing students grow from their own individual benchmarks in terms of skills and fitness. Personal bests are a great motivator! I also enjoy being outside in Auckland’s fresh air and sunshine (and the occasional drop of rain).

I find it incredibly rewarding when class finishes, but the students don’t want to stop – it’s a great sign that they’re enjoying the lesson. Most of the time, when I teach a particular skill, students go off and practice what they’ve just learnt. Those who ‘get it’ are always excited and want to show me, or say “Mr Smith, can you watch me please?” I love that!

How do you engage students who are unsure or self-conscious about participating in PE?
For me, these students are one of my main motivations for wanting to teach PE. I assist them in any way possible and help them realise that they can do it too, even if it is off to the side without the whole class watching their every move! My role is to motivate all ability levels equally. I also enjoy seeing other students reach out and help those who need a little guidance.

Tell us about your personal sporting journey.
My athletics highlight would have to be claiming a New Zealand Championship silver medal behind Nick Willis in the 1500m back in 2008. Then in 2010, I went on to win the NZ men’s 800m title and subsequently represented New Zealand at the Oceania Athletics Championships. I, unfortunately, had to give up running for a couple of years due to injury, but in 2015, while living in Japan, I discovered triathlon! It took me three years to work out that I was any good at it. My highlight was finishing twelfth in the World Triathlon Championships in 2018 for the 30-34 age group. I’m very excited to go back one day and do even better.

Where can we find you if you’re not at school or training for a triathlon?
In my spare time, I enjoy fixing and restoring an old car of mine, a 1979 Toyota Corolla. I mainly disassemble, clean, paint and restore old parts on it, or I fit new ones. It’s basically like working on a big puzzle.

What can we expect to see from you in the new school year?
This year I’d like to get involved in as much as I can. I am very excited to see how ACG runs its events and day-to-day classes, and I hope there are some staff versus student sports and events days!

What tips do you have for students in 2022?
Try every sport and activity you can - otherwise, you’ll never know which ones you enjoy, which ones you are good at, and which ones you want to pursue. For example, I wish I’d started triathlon at eight years old with the Sanitarium Weet-Bix Kids TRYathlon, but unfortunately, it took me until I was 28!