Wednesday 9 November 2022.
The Mathematics Education community will be saddened by the sudden loss of Derek Hurrell who passed away at home on Friday 4 November. Derek was a wonderful educator who has left his imprint on thousands of teachers who have passed through his classes at the University of Notre Dame Australia. Derek was an exceptional teacher and he loved teaching.
Prior to going over to the dark side (Derek’s words not ours) and joining the University of Notre Dame Australia, Derek had more than 25 years in classrooms and a few more years working as the Numeracy Consultant with the Association of Independent Schools of Western Australia. His passion was in engaging students in the subject of mathematics and supporting the sensationally good work that teachers were doing in schools. He strongly believed that schools need to invest in their teachers in order to have excellent mathematics programs.
As a regular contributor to professional learning nationally, Derek was a highly sought-after conference presenter. Derek published widely in the field of Mathematics Education. His favourite place to see his work was Australian Primary Mathematics Classroom because it is aimed at teachers in the classroom. Derek received his PhD for his thesis entitled Effectiveness of Teacher Professional Learning: Enhancing the Teaching of Fractions in Primary Schools. As a spin-off of this work, he authored a book for teachers Developing a Conceptual Understanding of Fractions.
Derek never forgot how hard teaching is and yet how rewarding it can be. He had a certain empathy for teachers that did not fade because of being out of the classroom for too long. That empathy endeared him to his students, teachers, and work colleagues. He was fond of a good story and could share a good yarn and not spoil the punchline. His quick wit and cheerful disposition always made him a great travelling companion or co-presenter. Nothing seemed to faze him. We fondly remember his classroom stories about his early teaching career working with very young students and their brutal honesty about all things, including the number of hairs inside his nostrils, despite not being about to count yet. From memory it was about one million!
He had the ability to lift the spirits in a room almost instantly. He was kind, intelligent and a true gentleman in every sense of the word. Derek was an outstanding colleague and an even better friend and he will be sadly missed by many. We will certainly miss him more than we can imagine. Our thoughts go out to Derek’s many friends and his wife Sandra and children Sarah and Chris.
We are sure his students and colleagues will pause and reflect on Derek’s wonderful character when trying Derek’s spin on a favourite maths activity. As Derek would say – “The chocolate on the chairs task just isn’t the same if you use carrot sticks!”
Lorraine Day and Paul Swan