Szabolcs Szabó, our friend and colleague who died at a shockingly young age in February 2017, was a chemistry teacher at the Budapest Fazekas Mihály and then at Városmajori High School, and the recipient of the Prize for Hungarian Chemistry Education.
I got to know Szabolcs in 1981, at his age of 14 as a freshman at Fazekas High School, at that time as his teacher. From then on, we worked a lot together until almost to his death. He was a talented and diligent student who liked to make experiments in our school lab in preparation for competitions. Already as a freshman, he reached the national finals of Irinyi János Chemistry Competition in Győr. Then he gained 3rd prize in his senior year at the National High School Competition in chemistry, while also being successful in mathematics and physics. He was also an active sportsman and made friendships here for a lifetime too. He understandably ended up as a natural sciences teacher, and graduated at Eötvös Loránd University as a chemistry-mathematics-physics teacher. The management of Fazekas was glad to have him back immediately to teach at his alma mater, as we well knew that his professional qualification was excellent while the science and art of teaching was in his blood. Szabolcs was my direct colleague for 17 years.
In line with one of the main profiles of the school, he recognized and supported in every possible way the students to deploy their talent. He got involved in the extracurricular chemistry activities at once in his first year, and five of his students reached the national final of Irinyi János Chemistry Competition. He had students in the Irinyi finals every year; more than 40 students altogether participated successfully during his Fazekas years. Also during these years, more than 30 of his students reached the finals at the National High School Competition in chemistry, 17 of whom were among the top 10 finalists. One of his students got a golden and a silver medal at the International Chemistry Olympics in two consecutive years. All these successes made him even more enthusiastic. With his students, he got also involved into project competitions of environmental protection – they received the bronze medal at the International Environmental Project Olympiad in 1999 and gained the possibility to participate at the environmental protection world competition in Hanover in 2000. His students received first prizes at the Nationwide Conference of Scientific Student Associations in 1999 and 2004.
He continuously followed the latest literature in chemistry, tried all new experiments, and learned all new information. He was perhaps the first to learn all details of the Obendrauf syringe experimental techniques, which he then introduced into the everyday practice of his teaching, and educated his teacher colleagues as well. We led the continuative training of chemistry teachers in Budapest for long years together, and we passed on our knowledge about new chemistry pedagogical methods also in regional education in the country. We started the “mobile lab” concept, driving around the country (in our own car), carrying chemistry tools and reagents, so that the joy of experimenting could reach remote, more disadvantaged places. Szabolcs even got to Csíkszereda (Transsylvania, Romania) to the Bolyai Summer Academy, to present low cost experimentation to teacher colleagues of that region. All in all, he was an excellent teacher and a superb colleague. To award his successful activities, he received the Prize for Hungarian Chemistry Education in 2005.
At a later stage, the requirements of his family and his search for new challenges drove him to applied informatics for a short period of time. This did not turn out to be a lucky choice, as he did not find his place as well in his new environment at an insurance company as previously at school with students. Although he found the joy of being a chemistry teacher again for a short time at Városmajori High School, problems in his family life led to bouts of mental and physical illness. And now he unexpectedly left his family, friends, colleagues, and his ever-passionate students.
On behalf of all my chemistry teacher colleagues, I must say farewell to my kind student and colleague with a broken heart.
Ildikó Hobinka Published in: Középiskolai Kémiai Lapok, 44. évf. (2017) 3. sz. 181–182.