Penola High School honours life of dedicated teacher lost to cancer

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Amemorial service for late Penola High School teacher and Rendelsham resident Sam Matthews will be held at the Beachport Surf Beach at 2pm on July 29.

The respected 38-year-old educator lost his battle with bowel cancer on July 3.

In lieu of flowers, mourners are asked to make a donation in memory of the married father-of-two to Millicent and District Hospital.

Penola High School will run classes on the day of the memorial service but encourages the attendance of students and families at this event.

The school has asked that students in attendance wear full school uniform as a memorial to his role and passion for the school.

Penola High School staged a Colour Run fundraiser earlier this year to support the Matthews family while friends established a GoFundMe page for this purpose.

A warm tribute to Mr Matthews was penned by Penola High School principal Lesley Okholm for the school’s newsletter.

According to Ms Okholm, Mr Matthews came to Penola High School in 2020 at the same time that she did.

“Sam moved to his dream house and land in Rendelsham with his beautiful wife Erin, and daughter Audrey,” wrote Ms Okholm.

“In 2020 they welcomed Frank to their gorgeous family.

“I remember past Penola principal Ngaire Benfell proudly telling me how she had ‘scooped the pool’ by getting Sam as a Maths and Science teacher, beating Millicent High School to him.

“She was inspired by his gentle nature, his passion for student wellbeing, his understanding and experience using programs like ‘Play is the Way’ and that we had Sam for the long haul.

“He wanted to be here and was going to see through our next generations of scientists and mathematicians.

“As we got to know Sam, we found out about his passion for surfing, as he would regularly surf at Beachport before he headed here to teach each day.

“We discovered his musical talents and remember fondly when he accompanied Ethyn Yates as he performed at presentation night that first year.

“We also found out what a gentle, compassionate man he was, treating our students and families in a most compassionate and sincere manner.”

Ms Okholm said Mr Matthews had revealed his cancer diagnosis midway through 2021.

“Yet I always said to him ‘you are not getting away and you will be back’.

“Just three weeks ago he was talking with me about what he hoped to teach in 2023 at Penola High School.

“Oh, to be able to wind back the clock.

“Sam was the type of teacher and man that every and any school and principal holds tightly onto.

“He put students first and worked tirelessly to engage students in any way he could.

“Penola High School has lost one of its best.

“Thank you, Sam, for including us in your life.”

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