Penryn College's longest serving teacher has just retired after 37 years of service at the school.

Alan Hulbert, 64, who joined the school in 1976 to teach pottery before becoming an art teacher, eventually joined the PE department and spent almost three decades as outdoors education coordinator.

After seeing increasing numbers of pupils who have become parents, and possibly even grandparents, Alan decided to retire from the college, although he hasn't ruled out some continued participation on a voluntary basis.

Alan joined the profession in the 1970s after having an “inspirational” teacher while he was at school, and spent four years working in London before relocating to Penryn, where he has remained ever since.

He says his school days also encouraged his interest in the outdoors: “The school I was at had some outdoor education responsibilities and they took us sailing. I feel I've been able to pass on my own first experiences to all our youngsters.”

When he retired, Alan recounted to his colleagues about the early days of his career, when arts funding was being cut and he was taking classes in all subjects in his pottery room, from art to English, and even French.

Even back then, he tried to educate through activities, taking a group of non-exam French students on a sailing and camping trip to France, where they were forced to use their language skills to complete day to day tasks.

Alan said: “There's more to learn from the outdoor environment and the world about so then you can take it across to the class room.

“The school has always taken an alternative approach to education, a holistic approach. The education of the whole child is more important than supporting exams. That's why it's so successful.

“It's the conversation and the relationships with the children that I'll treasure forever. Seeing a happy side of the youngsters and seeing them blossom, and seeing others who aren't able to succeed in the classroom succeeding in such a rewarding way when they get into tricky situations which involve adventure and challenge”

To this end, Alan spent more time organising extracurricular trips, for the pupils He said: “The school built up to a sports college, promoting learning from outside the classroom environment.

“When we started that it was a whole school change, really. I had conversations with young people about what they got up to on weekends and they did very little, when there's so much opportunity in Cornwall.

“Rather than leaving it to hope it was a case of creating something in the school. It was created as a club for extra-curricular activities.

“In 1986 we started the first camp to the Isles of Scilly, and it built year on year.

“The school was able to access funding to turn into a sports college, it focused on outdoor sports as we didn't have sporting facilities, but we could use Carrick Roads for sailing, and the coastal paths for walking, and build and build from there until my job had to be full time, there was no time for art.”

However, he found it exciting to be in at the start of the push for outdoor education, and was involved with the council's early work on helath and safety, “pretty much writing the rulebook.

“It was great to be involved in the first stages; it was good to change as it was like a new job every day.”

Alan says he did miss the art work: “But I still had the opportunity to paint and draw and for a time we did a lot of subjects linked to education: They took paints and materials with them in the early days. Art was involved, and cross curricular work linking music, drama, English and maths. And it's now become entrenched on the curriculum, and I'm proud to speak about the camp, which continues. Though I've retired I may still be involved in a camp or two as I achieved 28 and it would be good to make 30, and I may be involved in sail training as well on a voluntary basis.”

Asked about any lasting memories he will have from his time at the school, Alan says it is too difficult to pick out any one moment.

“As teachers we don't get instant rewards but we do get youngsters who tell us how well they are doing in their lives, and how experiences at school have set them on the right road, and that's the real reward. They're pleased to tell you about their lives, that's a heartening part of the job. That will live with them forever.”

“Especially from the earlier days when I was doing pottery from 1976. I spoke to someone last week who still has the hedgehog they made, things like that bring it all flooding back.

“A lot of the time working with the children, looking after them you feel like you are literally acting in loco parentis, part of one big family, and the relationships that have come out of that have been very rewarding. That's the way I've approached my teaching, have a good time and get the educational message across.”

And Alan certainly has been keeping things within the family, his two daughters studied at Penryn “and did very well,” the eldest is now an actress, but she will be returning to the college to take up a teaching role.

“You end up having taught parents and they know who they're sending their children with. It's generation teaching.”