I had some really amazing teachers when I was at school.
Mrs Strugnell, Chemistry. Her dry wit was legendary. She made me love Chemistry. Mrs Irwin, French. The way she used to laugh with all her heart and soul at her own jokes was infectious. She also really cared for all of her students. Mrs Fleming, Physics. She didn’t tolerate fools and there were a lot of fools in my class. Her heart was far bigger than her occasional bite. Miss Williamson, Mrs Prekop and Mrs Compton, Biology. They were just lovely, even despite the fact that Mrs Compton was not that happy at our Epic Field Trip Pillow Fight. Mr Richardson, RE, was an absolute gentleman. He knew how to make sure you knew your 836-936 verses of the Bible. He also threw in the odd slide show on the Holy Land if you could persuade him. We frequently persuaded him. Mr Hamilton, History. He inspired me to love History at the age of eleven with the story of Sir Walter Raleigh. He had a huge impact on me personally. George Barclay (Legend) allowed us to do what we wanted as long as we threw the discus in the summer, jumped a wee bit and attempted to run. I never ran that fast or that far, but many of my friends definitely did. We simply loved athletics. Alan Marsh, ‘the gaffer,’ told us to ‘shoot when we see the whites of their eyes.’ It was an inspirational talk that nearly saw me score from the half-way line. I didn’t do much after that, but Mr Marsh will always hold the highest award that I can bestow upon him. Best Coach!!! I really appreciated Mrs Lennox’s no nonsense approach to teaching English. She taught you how to succeed and gave you all the right advice and guidance.
And so, we arrive at the Awards Ceremony for the best Teacher at Cookstown High School, 1985-1992. All were shortlisted. The Award is shared. Mrs Black, Maths. She always had a belief in me. I will always remember the day I achieved 100% in a Mathematics examination. Of course, there was no great fanfare, but Mrs Black had a way of making you feel a great sense of achievement. She is the reason that I was able to do Higher Maths. I always respected her and never grumbled as she paced the room and swooped down on my many mistakes. She was a very talented teacher. She shares the award with Mr Gaffney, the greatest English and Drama teacher that we will never forget. He was the ultimate human, friendly, warm and, at times, on the edge, some would say, always on the edge. He threw his whole self into teaching and did everything to inspire those assembled in front of him. It didn’t always work but he tried everything. He educated me and twenty years of students on the music that mattered. The one time I met him since I left school, in a second-hand book shop, he was telling me the books that I should buy and read. He gave us many a drama and allowed us all to act in the highly ambitious Arthur Miller play, The Crucible. Goodness. I think I was pretty awful. At least I was given the chance to give it a go. Mrs Black and Mr Gaffney were both fabulous in their own way.
There were several reasons why I wanted to enter teaching. There were more than a few who inspired me.