Chronicle 2021 - Staff Leavers
Sue Hay, Head of Junior School, August 1994- June 2021, 27 years
We are sorry Sue is leaving and thank her for her service to St George’s School for the last two decades.
Sue joined St George’s School as a teacher of Primary in August 1994. She brought her young family with her as her daughter Emma joined the nursery class and her daughter Claire joined us for Primary 1 and it has been a source of great pride for Sue and St George’s as we have watched both her daughters succeed and flourish in their chosen careers.
In 1994, although initially only securing a fixed term contract for one year, Sue quickly demonstrated the calibre of her teaching and was made a permanent member of the Junior School team only a short time later. Indeed, some of the teaching staff still remember her outstanding application letter when applying for the post of classroom teacher all those years ago where she wrote about missing the ‘buzz of the classroom’ and it is clear, as we reflect back over her teaching career that Sue certainly found the ‘buzz’ that she initially sought.
Over the subsequent years Sue steadily gained experience in each primary year group stage of the Junior and Lower School, working happily alongside a range of colleagues. As a teacher, Sue was always willing to help and her colleagues remember her as knowledgeable, hard-working and creative. During these times Sue championed a number of memorable school events for the pupils, and I am sure that she will have many fond memories of expertly organising and executing events such as camps, sports days, trips, graduations, farewells, nativities and concerts which successfully took place in her capable hands over the years, living on in the memories of the students and their families.
Reflecting back on Sue’s time at St George’s it is clear that she made the most of all opportunities that came her way and showed great determination, interest and initiative in the events and activities of the whole school and beyond.
Sue has been an active and valued member of many school working parties and groups over the years. In 2006 we were delighted when Sue was the first teacher of St George’s who was awarded Chartered Teacher status. To the school, it reflected the consistent, high standards and dedicated approach to teaching that have been her hallmarks throughout her teaching career.
A memorable highlight of Sue’s teaching experience was when she had an opportunity to participate in one of the St George’s teacher exchanges and she travelled to a school in Australia. She enjoyed the opportunity for this exchange and the Australian children and teachers enjoyed that she taught them about Scottish life and culture through introductions to Scottish Country dancing and haggis to give but two examples!
Sue has been an exemplary Head of St George’s Junior School for the last decade. She was appointed to this position in September 2011 and her colleagues feel she is in possession of all of the skills, qualities and attributes that a successful leader should encapsulate. She is a consummate professional in all that she says and does. Sue has a wealth of teaching experience which makes her a great role model and mentor to colleagues in Junior School and also those across the whole school community.
Her contributions to the Senior Leadership team have been invaluable, considered and much respected over the years. That she can think clearly and keep calm under pressure are amongst her greatest attributes. None more so on a Monday morning when the Care Inspectorate turn up out of the blue for an unwarranted (and dare we say unwelcome) visit! Yet her ability to steer her team through even the most adverse of situations with dignity and composure intact have ensured that she is highly revered by all who have the pleasure of working with her.
Sue has treasured her teaching commitments in various year groups - co-sharing class responsibilities with a variety of colleagues - whilst juggling the challenges and demands of leading a lively and busy Junior School. She always leads from the front, setting a high example, and her enthusiasm for teaching has remained throughout. It is this dedication to the classroom that has allowed her to lead so effectively for all of these years as it has ensured that she has always remained ‘in touch’ with the children and has an impeccable instinct for those things they hold dear.
Indeed, Sue’s highlight of the month has always been the Celebration Assemblies where she takes the opportunity to celebrate, with the whole Junior School, each children’s achievements in turn and learn more about their lives outside of school.
And few will forget the on-line sports day in June 2020 when Sue posted a video on Teams of her donning various enormous pieces of clothing and completing an obstacle course in her garden! All for the greater good of getting the children fully involved in the excitement of having to participate in a sports day during lockdown!
The fact that Sue is a great communicator - with staff, parents and with children of all ages – is never in more evidence during open days and information events for our parent body. She is articulate, empathetic and understanding of the needs of whomever she is conversing. She always has time and a listening ear whenever staff or parents are in need of some of her wise, good advice. It also goes without saying that Sue’s wonderful sense of humour - which so many of us have been able to relate to - provide her with a lovely ability to create those warm and lasting relationships that embody the spirit of St George’s itself.
In addition to her teaching and leadership accolades, Sue is a firm believer in lifelong learning opportunities for her staff team and has held research positions herself with the General Teaching Council of Scotland and has also channelled her experience and expertise as an HMIe inspector in other school settings across Scotland. Sue relished these opportunities to look outwards and gain an insight into other school communities, always using them as experiences to further strengthen the excellent practice and curriculum outcomes of our own Junior School.
To the casual observer, in recent years, Sue has calmly guided staff through inspections, supported digital home learning, staff changes, building catastrophes and transformations under her expert leadership skills. Those who know her well though understand the time, energy and commitment she gives to each and every task, and the high standards and diligence with which she applies herself.
From all at St George’s we wish Sue every happiness and success in her retirement. We know that she is looking forward to the fresh challenge of golf club captaincy which will help to keep her busy and most importantly we know that she is looking forward to having more time to spend travelling with Tom and her wonderful daughters.
We are enormously sorry to say goodbye to Sue, and mark the passing of her tenure as Head of Junior School. In many ways words are not sufficient to thank her for every and all of her services to St George’s Junior School and we hope that she leaves us safe with the knowledge that she has made an immeasurably positive difference not only to the lives of the children but also her colleagues who hold her in the highest of regard. Good luck for the next part of your life’s journey, Sue!
Trudi Robertson, Junior and Lower School Teacher, August 1996- June 2021, 25 years
Trudi has made a hugely significant impact on life at St George’s, starting in Junior School in 1996, fulfilling a variety of leadership roles as well as co-ordinating the Confucius classroom, before taking up her current post in 2013. Her leadership, professionalism, hard work ethic and wide-ranging skillset, pastoral and academic, are highly admirable. Trudi has been a key player in many girls’ lives, helping them navigate and transition through Primary into Secondary Education, Support for Learning, starting their new school career at St George’s and tackling the rather tricky years of entering adolescence. Delivering to the individual approach is exactly what Trudi does so well.
Generosity in time, dedication, care and sharing of expertise as she has helped and stretched so many girls allowing them to access the gateway to Upper School with confidence, self-belief and a renewed understanding of kindness and friendships are just a handful of the qualities Trudi has given St George's that we are so very grateful for.
Mel’s favourite part of the day is their daily morning catch up - starting with chat on walks, workouts (Trudi's workouts, not hers!!) and wine, followed by sport, socialising, oh and then some St George's business! It been a rather epic journey with only one normal term in the whole two years and Mel could not have wished for a better teammate to take on all the challenges faced.
Trudi, you can certainly close your out your career with your head held high and feeling proud - you have changed the lives for the better of so many of our students and families, and as for the staff - I think it is fair to say you have practically been an in-house counsellor to many colleagues over the years too!!! Thank you for being so generous in sharing your expertise, experience and skillset of which so many of us have benefitted from. We hope to take your drive, shared knowledge, hard work ethic and sense of humour forwards with us as LS embarks on life with a new team.
We wish Trudi well as she starts a new life in New Zealand.
Sandra Stenhouse, Business Education, August 1998- June 2021, 23 years
Sandra started her career with St George’s as Part Time Assistant Teacher in the Business Education Department in August 1998. With two years proven track record, she was an obvious choice for a full time Teaching post in 2000 and was appointed Head of Enterprise three years thereafter.
Over the years, Sandra has been actively involved in Young Enterprise, both within school and as a member of the Board. She has also been an SQA marker and has written materials for SQA.
True to her expertise in the teaching of Business, Sandra is an astute business woman - particularly skilled in the areas of Marketing and HR! Only Sandra could use her power of persuasion in recruiting Business Enterprise Teachers across a range of departments in school to oversee groups of L6 girls during lunchtimes or after school as they develop their own products to sell! And what's more, her staff retention record is pretty good too - because working with her is such fun, many of her colleagues are more than happy to remain with Business Enterprise year on year!
Sandra's commitment to Business Enterprise has been plain for all to see - she has given up so much of her free time to motivate and encourage the girls to get involved and, at times, stay involved, in the challenge of getting their products ready for sale.
Sandra has cheerfully attended countless Saturday Royal Bank of Scotland Business Events and Christmas markets. Then there are the Enterprise evenings hosted here in school and the Young Enterprise Final at Napier University - our students wouldn't have made it there without Sandra's encouragement.
Sandra's skills in creating spreadsheets and doing the 'checks and balances' are endless. In fact, Sandra not only keeps a 'check' on figures and numbers, she also checks in with her family, friends and colleagues.
And of course, Sandra maintains a 'balance' in her life too - able to put schoolwork to one side, she and her husband, Jimmy, are great vintage car enthusiasts, and together they've travelled far and wide to attend vintage car events and rallies, often dressing up to look the part!
Sandra celebrated 20 years with St George’s in 2018. Just shy of her 23rd year with us, Sandra is now looking forward to spending precious time with her family as well enjoying more jaunts and stays with Jimmy in their motorhome. Happy retirement, Sandra - the best times are yet to come!
Rachael Porteous, French and Support for Learning teacher and Joint Curriculum Leader for Modern Languages,1985- 1994 and August 2007 – June 2021, 23 years
Rachael joined the staff of St George's in 1985 as a Teacher of French after completing her studies at St Andrew's University. During her time with St George's, she took on the role of Assistant Housemistress and was actively involved in the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme. Leaving in 1994, Rachael co-founded and ran a sub-post office / coffee shop / gift shop in East Lothian until 1999. In 2000, she resumed her teaching career at North Berwick School on a part-time basis and later established her own business teaching French to pre-school children. Rachael returned to St George's in August 2007 as a part-time Teacher of French and Learning Support. She was appointed Joint Curriculum Leader for Modern Languages with effect from August 2019.
What follows is an extract from the farewell given to Rachael by Adam Clark in June:
All of this tells us two things about Rachael: that she’s done a heck of a lot. And that she has never been able to really shake off St George’s once and for all. I have only known Rachael for a relatively short time in what has been a rich and varied teaching career, and it has become clear that she is not always what she seems. As a probationary teacher, fresh faced and green around the gills, I remember being horrified when during one after school Faculty meeting I could sense Rachael’s head beginning to nod and she began snoring softly. A gentle nudge was enough to bring her back again.
She would on occasion walk into the Languages Base with 5 minutes to go before a lesson and announce “what should I teach the Upper 4 today?”, as I sat poring over my 6 page lesson plan fresh out of Moray House. And if nothing was forthcoming in terms of a plan, Rachael was always ready to open the filing cabinet and reach for her favourite French movie “Les Choristes”. I think we have 4 copies of the film in total, because Rachael has burnt out the other three!
But if you think from what I’ve said so far that Rachael is someone who is lacking commitment, dedication and is scared of hard graft, then I’m afraid you do not know Rachael very well at all. She is everything I aspire to be in a teacher: passionate and committed to her subject and pupils, but with a healthy dollop of chill added into the mix. Rachael and I have been leading the Languages Department through what has been a very turbulent two years on the backdrop of the global pandemic, but it is precisely this “chill” at times of immense stress that has keep the ship sailing smoothly. She has a calm head, a deep sense of compassion for her colleagues and has worked tirelessly in support of the department, never expecting any thanks in return. She is a realist and values the human side of her job above all else – the daily interaction with her colleagues and the warmth with which she teaches her pupils.
Rachael is the last member standing of “the young ones” - a trio of St George’s colleagues and long time chums consisting of Rachael, Tricia Lancaster and Linda Emslie, who referred to themselves as “the self help group”. Tricia and Linda have some fantastic memories of capers both home and abroad with Rachael, the most memorable being the theatre trip they led to the East Coast of the USA in 1994. They took 35 girls across the Atlantic to perform a version of the Little Prince, which Rachael adapted herself. In the days pre health and safety and risk assessment, one school they were performing at in Long Island, New York had not put in place adequate hosting arrangements, meaning the entire group had to spend the night on the floor of the school library. I am told footage exists of Rachael’s aforementioned snoring on the floor of said library, but on this trip, like on all others she has taken, she will be remembered for her cool head, enthusiasm and irrepressible cheer, rather than for just the noises she makes when she’s asleep.
Rach is great fun and her wicked sense of humour has made her a great asset on trips to Antibes, to the Rhineland on the German Exchange, and to Nice and Monaco with the Lower 5s, where she picked out a lovely multi million Euro retirement apartment for herself on the Cote d’Azur. It’s unlikely she’ll be able to afford it (even the retirement whip round we had in Languages didn’t quite get us over the line), but it would be no less than she deserves. If nothing else, she might be able to rent a bespoke parking space in Monaco for the camper van she is planning on pimping up with her retirement fund.
Finally, I can’t talk about Rachael without mentioning her absolute aversion to all things technological – be it one finger typing or using the Inspera Online Proctoring System, the latter of which she would not inflict on her worst enemy. But her technophobia is yet another thing about Rachael which is to be admired: she’s old school, a maverick and does things on her own terms. She is not a slave to the zeitgeist. She’s like long play vinyl records – they were cool when they came out, became a bit dated but have never really gone out of fashion and are actually cooler than ever now. Rachael leaves us not only cooler than ever, but with a career and record of service which she can look back on and be proud of. We will miss hearing the shuffle of her feet coming along the corridor, heralding her arrival each morning and her setting the world to rights from the comfort of the croissant chair before getting up to meet the day head on. She has been a pleasure to call a colleague and a friend, and everyone in the Languages Department wishes her a happy retirement. Bon Chance et Amour Toujours, Rachael.
Gerry O’Fee , English, Support for Learning and ESOL, August 2002 – December 2020, 18 years
Gerry joined us in August 2002 as a part time teacher of English, having worked for Longman Group in sales and journal development, as well as bookshops before commencing her teaching career. Interests in theatre, local history, the environment and hill walking provided rich material for her use in the English classroom, where she was an inspirational teacher who held the confidence of the girls as they explored literature and language. Gerry was acknowledged in English as working with all the senses and bringing a cornucopia of colours, tastes, sights, smells and textures to her teaching, as well as Lower School open mornings where she created an inspirational environment for all who visited to turn their hand to autumn poetry.
Never one to feel enough is enough, Gerry expressed an interest in Support for Learning and in her active pursuit of a post qualified with the Open University and then gained the coveted acknowledgement as a specialist teacher when she received her Associate Membership of the British Dyslexia Association – two years of hard work alongside her job provided an entry into SfL in August 2014 where Gerry has worked across the school and undertaken the role of Access Arrangement Co-ordinator. During her years in Lower School the base was always filled with a wonderful array of colourful toys and games all designed to strengthen the girls' skills whilst making it seem effortless and fun. A pink flamingo, horse grooming set, ping pong balls or fairy dust anyone? Currently based in junior school for Support for Learning, where she works with P4 and P5, Gerry’s inspiration continues and her empathy and understanding of each individual provides them with the foundation they require to gain fulfilment in their learning.
For Gerry her desire to show that enough is never enough continued. In addition to her AMBDA recognition she qualified as an ESOL teacher, gaining a Certificate in English Language Teaching This involved Gerry sacrificing four weeks of her summer holidays to complete this intensive course but in true fashion, she nailed it! Since then, she has been working alongside Susan delivering English language support across school. And Gerry nails that too - she can turn her hand to any level of student who comes our way and do so with her characteristic cheery nature and good humour! And she has even found the time to add to her already impressive set of skills by completing training as a Cambridge Assessment English Speaking examiner – skills that she has put to good use when preparing students for ESOL exams. It should also be said that Gerry puts the ‘style’ into ESOL – what Imelda Marcos is to shoes, Gerry is to ‘face masks’. Every outfit she has worn to school in recent months has been beautifully coordinated with a colourful mask. Her good sense of colour and style also extends to her classroom – you are greeted by the sight of an array of brightly coloured pens, student artwork and even a pair of angel wings attached to the side of her whiteboard!
Out of school, Gerry has added wild swimming to her repertoire and can often be found at weekends heading off on adventures with her trusty caravan to visit new spots around the country. A way to make the recipient feel envious is to receive a text telling you that she is watching the sunset while having a glass of prosecco in some remote corner of Scotland.
Gerry, we will have more packs of post It notes available around school now you are retiring ( never before has an interview panel experienced someone with lots of post it notes being set out for inspiration) and meetings in SfL and ESOL just won’t be the same without your colourful array of notes that are used as an aide memoire – but more importantly your professionalism, wisdom and awareness of individual needs will be missed. We wish you the very best in your next adventure.
Gordon Lamont, CDT, August 2003 – June 2021, 18 years
From a background in Civil Engineering, Gordon embarked on an honours degree in Technological Education in 1998 as a mature student. His first placement as a probationer was at Denny High School, thereafter joining George’s in August 2003.
If asked to contribute to a school initiative, Gordon is always willing to get involved, even if that means more work for him, and is always done with good cheer and wholehearted commitment. He is an excellent team player and has been part of many important collaborations, including the House Team, the International Exchange Team and, on many occasions, part of the Enterprise Challenges for different year groups working with business, food studies during his time here. He has supported numerous individual students in his international role, in Young Engineers and in the several design competitions, robots and Lego to name but a few.
In the Comenius days he was involved in many trips abroad including Germany and Italy. However, the highlight of his career must be the visit to Nasa Space Centre in Houston - a thoroughly amazing experience for many students which Gordon spent months organising with great attention to detail. In addition to the trips, Gordon ran several Comenius projects, working with schools across Europe on a Robotics project and then a cypher project. The funding from these ventures supported the CAD/CAM developments within the department with the purchase of a laser cutter and 3d printer and Gordon also led the development of VR at St George’s. His efforts enabled the girls to have access to an array of cutting-edge initiatives.
Gordon ran Young Engineers Club and has always encouraged the girls to take an interest in Engineering, Design and Technology and in the world around them, one highpoint being the yearly trip to IKEA.
Always in a positive mood, Gordon has bags of patience. His commitment to the design students is immense allowing them to achieve the level they deserve. He is also a warm, compassionate, and caring person who will listen and support colleagues and pupils alike. He will be sorely missed by students in the Enterprise Centre and the Lower School Design Technology and IT classrooms who have especially enjoyed his entertaining stories and jokes and his sharing of interesting topical facts over the years.
Gordon has fully embraced the social aspects at St George’s and has been known to construct a range of sets and props for school productions.
Gordon will spend much of his new free time renovating his new home and garden – a literal “Grand Design” in the making. He will also have more opportunities to watch the rugby, especially his team Glasgow Warriors, enjoy his motorcycles and indulge in a beverage or five. Gordon, we wish you well in your retirement.
Cathy Mcinally, Mathematics, April 2000 – June 2021, 21 years
Cathy loves maths and is never happier than when working through a challenging maths problem. She is an excellent and very talented mathematician. Cathy is also an excellent teacher who gets the best out of her students, whether or not they are able mathematicians; she has shown great skill over her long career in helping girls, for whom maths was a struggle, to get the best result possible. At the other end of the ability spectrum, Cathy has encouraged and stretched our most able mathematicians, including those who have gone on to pursue maths at university. In recent years she has taught all elements of the maths at AH, including the Mechanics and Statistics.
Cathy has been a dedicated form tutor during her career at St George’s, and has seen many girls through their final two years at the school, playing the key role of writing their UCAS references, as well as her care for their wellbeing. Her contribution in this aspect of school life will be missed.
In my second year at St George’s when I became Head of Faculty, Cathy was Andrew’s Assistant Head of Faculty. He valued her hard work and support over the next three years, when he thought they made a good team! Cathy always had the best interests of the students at heart and could always be relied upon to do a first-rate job on any project she was working on. She was always very well organised and was always for a puzzle to solve!
Cathy is rightly proud of her sons, and Stuart’s rugby exploits have been a source of great joy. It is easy to see who is the rugby enthusiast on a visit to the maths base! She now has the joy of grandchildren too. There is no way Cathy will be short of things to do in the future, especially with grandchildren, piano playing, the new holiday home, and of course, some mathematical problem to work on.
Cathy, we wish you a wonderful retirement.
Annessa Ashkanani, Modern Studies, August 2018 – June 2021, 3 years
Annessa joined the staff of St George's as Teacher of Modern Studies in 2018 from her probation year spent at Royal High School. Although Modern Studies has become an increasingly popular subject since it was introduced here in the late 1980s, Annessa was our first specialist teacher of the subject and she has done much to develop students’ examination skills and to promote interest in national and international politics and current affairs. Her passion for her subject and her enthusiasm as a teacher have won the respect and loyalty of all she has taught. A passionate advocate for social justice and inclusion, she has also sought ways to promote awareness of discrimination and has worked tirelessly with students to educate and inform others about the effects of bias and prejudice.
Annessa quickly immersed herself in the school community, becoming a Boarding Tutor in her first session. In 2019, she became Head of Year and has supported the current Upper 5 through their GCSE years and the period of supported home learning with sensitivity, good humour and energy.
We wish her well as she moves on to the post of Teacher of Modern Studies at Dunbar Grammar School.
Helen Hubbard Food Technology, August 2015 – August 2021, 6 years
When Helen joined St George’s as a part time teacher of Food Technology, she quickly established herself as a member of the department, and her ability to enthuse students of all abilities was a key skill. Together with Katie Thomas, she developed the Food Technology courses for Lower School, enabling girls to develop skills as well as knowledge, and the emphasis on healthy food and how it is relevant to the girls. She championed the idea that no food is ‘good’ or ‘bad’, but that a balance is needed, and our bodies require all of the food groups at some point.
The student numbers taking GCSE Food and Nutrition and 6th form courses have grown significantly and this is in no small part due to the enthusiasm and passion that Helen shows in the classroom. She encourages creativity and the concept of exploring food, where it comes from and the diversity of international cuisine.
Helen’s lessons are engaging, fun and with a big emphasis on practical cooking; the bit that the girls love most of all. Helen has the capacity to work with a range of abilities, and always bring out the best on her students. Helen is an honest and very talented teacher, who truly does care about all of her pupils.
Helens’ position as PT at Drummond High allowed us to benefit further form her knowledge and skills, providing input as a moderator of external examinations and course work, and also through her membership of national professional bodies.
Helen leaves us to join the Business School team at Queen Margaret’s University as lecturer in Culinary Arts. It is a new role, managing the international degree provision as well as lecturing on other Under-Graduate and Masters’ courses in the business school. We wish you all the best, Helen.
Katie Thomas, Head of Food Technology, April 2014 – March 21, 7 years
Katie came to us from Craigmount School and prior to that she had worked in England and Malaysia, and also in Dundee in product development for a confectionary company.
Katie is one of those teachers who is willing to get involved if asked to contribute to a school initiative that involves more work for her. This is always done with good cheer and she throws herself in whole heartedly. She is an excellent team player and has shown this through her input to various Enterprise initiatives with Upper 4 working with the Business and Design departments.
Always smiling, she has some lovely relationships with the students: showing patience and commitment to them in order for them to achieve the level that they deserve.
She is also a warm, compassionate and caring person who will listen and support her colleagues and students alike. Her creativity in problem solving is key to her flexibility of approach within the classroom, meaning she is held in such affectionate regard by all of her students.
She leaves us to take up a post, training student teachers, passing on her skills and knowledge to the next generation of Food Technology teachers.
Deirdre Latimer, Head of Mathematics, December 2013 – June 21, 8 years
Deirdre joined St George's as Teacher of Maths mid-way in the School Session 2013/2014 and was promoted to Head of Faculty of Maths with effect from August 2014. Previously, Deirdre had worked at Robert Gordons College, teaching one of Anne Everest’s sons, along with periods at a number of local authority schools.
Deirdre has an excellent rapport with the students and gets the best out of girls of all abilities and ages. She is equally at home teaching a bottom set as she is in stretching an able Advanced High class. Deirdre has overseen a period of strong uptake for the subject at Higher and Advanced Higher, along with a substantial improvement in attainment at Higher. Additionally, she has worked hard to encourage girls to participate in competitions and seen a recent increased profile of success in these.
Deirdre has worked hard to diversify the learning experience of girls in mathematics, encouraging a variety of teaching techniques and learning approaches, using a wider range of resources, including digital textbooks. In her time as Head of Maths she has led changes to the Maths curriculum and helped the Faculty to navigate the challenge of home learning. Deirdre has successfully led a whole school-working group on assessment and tracking; her clear analytical mind has provided focus and clarity in discussions.
Deirdre has a passion for maths, a love of teaching children of all ages and abilities, sound organisational skills, the capacity to work under pressure and lead by example, and a vision for making the experience of students in mathematics interesting and stimulating as possible.
We were delighted for Deirdre when she announced her appointment as Deputy Head (Academic) at St Margarets’ School, Aberdeen. We wish every success as she leaves us to take up her post in the “Granite City” and thank her for her full contribution to St George’s.
Helen Fraser , Music Teacher, August 2017 – December 2020, 4 years
Leaving Walworth Academy as Head of Music, Helen commenced her employment at St George's as Teacher of Music on 21st August 2017. As well as teaching music P6-U6, Helen coached students in Gaelic speaking. Helen reduced her hours from full time to part time with effect from August 2018. Helen and her husband, Tim, welcomed their second son, Ivor Alexander, in July 2019. Following completion of maternity leave, Helen's request for unpaid leave to January 2021 was granted allowing her to spend more time with her children. Subsequently she decided to leave St George’s and is now a partner in the family business.
Gemma Heather-Hayes, Drama , August 2008 – October 2020, 12 years
During her time at St George’s, Gemma has produced and directed many stunning and memorable School productions. Most recently the Lower School has been incredibly lucky to have Gemma's creative vision as Director for several Lower School Musicals, working closely alongside Jonathan, and all her students have loved taking part. Her productions have been outstanding, stunning and hugely creative, with pupils acting with a maturity well beyond what is expected for their age. She has a creative flair that inspires the pupils she teaches and many of her ideas on the productions have been inspirational. For instance, nobody will forget the cow depicted as a balloon, or the beanstalk made from umbrellas in Into the Woods, nor the beautiful and complex staging in Mary Poppins.
In her classroom teaching, Gemma cares deeply about her subject and strives to pass on this enthusiasm to her students. She has always gone above and beyond for her exam candidates, rehearsing with her Higher and Advanced Higher students on their practical work during many lunchtimes and after school. They have all benefited from her expertise in acting.
As well as juggling these commitments with the growing demands of home life, Gemma has run a successful LAMDA program where she prepared girls in the theory and practical elements of the varying levels before presenting them for the external exam. Over the years, scores of girls have achieved certificates of Merit and Distinction, not to mention the huge boost that these experiences have provided to self-confidence and presentation skills.
Gemma has been an energetic, vibrant, and creative member of the drama department while also forming strong relationships across the whole of the wider school community: taking a great interest in how people are doing, from kitchen staff and groundsmen to teaching colleagues and parents. Her wonderful sense of fun and cheerful demeanour will be greatly missed as she moves on to her new role in Fife.
(Facility staff, Administrative support, IT support, Library staff, Classroom assistants, Boarding assistants, School nurses)
Margaret Imlah – October 1988 – January 2021, 32 years
It seems most unfair that we should be saying our farewells to a person who has been at the very heart of St George’s for 32 years, on a day when the school is virtually empty.
Margaret was appointed Domestic Bursar at St George's with effect from 19th October 1988. She joined us from the University of St Andrews where she had worked as a junior domestic bursar since 1983 and subsequently, Domestic Bursar from 1984 of McIntosh Hall, a student residence for 200 students.
Margaret married Alasdair in 1990. The wedding took place in Lansdowne House and the lodge.
In 1998 Margaret was appointed to the Senior Leadership Team at St George's, when her title changed to Facilities Director.
During her time at St George's she has been greatly involved in the school's facilities development plan and the building of the Robertson Music Centre, two extensions to the junior school, the St George's Centre and the Enterprise Centre, and most recently the Everest Pavilion, the Sixth Form suite and the creation of new accommodation in Houldsworth in summer 2018, as well as the ongoing refurbishment programmes in existing buildings.
Margaret also works closely with external groups linked to school such as NYCOS, Excel Sports Academy and Grange Hockey Club, parent bodies such as PTF and the Safer Routes to School group and Old Girls.
These are the bare bones of a career that has, in ways too numerous to count, made a positive difference not just to this school, but to the daily lives of staff, children and parents within our community.
Margaret is, without a doubt a person you would want by your side in a crisis, and I am sure that all the Heads she has worked with would agree. In recent months she has been a dab hand with a two metre measure and the now ubiquitous marking tape. She knows the dimensions of every classroom in the school and exactly how many desks can be fitted into them at 1m and 2m distance. When the snow falls, she is in school and assessing the situation while the rest of us are still coming to terms with our alarm clocks. Floods, falling trees and, even a collapsing roof have seen her not necessarily undaunted, but certainly unflinching in her response. She has the ability to face up to a problem, and has, time and time again, shown herself willing to take on the least attractive aspects of a given situation and tackle them with good cheer and determination. In calmer times, she has details of our Site Development programme and all our annual maintenance requirements at her fingertips and has undoubtedly had a great deal to do with the essential but often unnoticed areas of school life, the smooth running of which it is easy to take for granted, but without which we would quickly founder. Her detailed notes, issued at the start of every week, illustrate her grasp of every aspect of daily life at this school, from packed lunches required, to timings of buses, bacon rolls for hockey matches and rooms that need to be set up for an evening event, then transformed again in time for an assembly or an exam the next morning. A few weeks ago, I described Margaret as indefatigable, but quickly added, that this seems very unfair, as it suggests that she does not get tired. I am entirely sure that she does get tired, but the quality to note is that Margaret keeps on going, even when she is tired, driven by a sense of responsibility, pride in her work, and a deep love of this school.
Less well known, but immensely valuable, has been her work on GDPR, an unglamourous and largely thankless task, to which she brought her invaluable attention to detail and willingness to hunt down the trickiest aspects of a problem. In this work we can also be grateful to Margaret for her principled adherence to the spirit of the law and her willingness to pick up the telephone and make confession, when necessary, to the Information Commissioner’s Office, a call that no-one would relish making.
One of the many committees and groups that Margaret has supported during her time here is the Old Girls’ Association. Her detailed recall of names, dates and contributions of OGs over many years has proved invaluable. This brings me to something immensely important, as I would like to pay tribute not only to what Margaret does, but to the way in which she carries out every aspect of her role. Because in my eyes there is a quality in Margaret that truly stands out, and that is her kindness. Whether it is in the thoughtful touch of a birthday gift left on a desk early in the morning, or in the gentle hand steering a child towards a bus, it is a quality without which no institution can ever really flourish. There are probably few of us who know as many of the girls by name as Margaret does. She also knows about their dietary requirements, and takes the time to work with their parents to ensure that the fussiest of eaters are reassured and well fed every day. She knows which bus they travel on, which stop they alight at, and remembers their mother’s maiden name, when she was a child here too. I know that, during the lockdown period, Margaret took time to contact elderly former pupils and members of staff, to check that they were well, and to find out whether they needed assistance. She visits, calls, and writes to members of our wider community, showing patience and care.
So it goes without saying that we will miss you greatly Margaret. We very much hope that you will stay in touch with us, and that, in due course, once we are allowed to have social gatherings again, we will be able to have a jolly good party, to say our goodbyes in the style that you deserve. I know that Council, the Old Girls’ Association and a number of parents, are very keen to support that plan. In the meantime, we wish you and Alasdair great happiness in your retirement. We know that it is unlikely to be a quiet, restful sort of retirement, but will see you extremely active, busy and creative, and we hope will leave you some time for your old friends here too.
Phyllis Mackay – Administration Assistant, Sept 1999 – October 2020, 21 years
What can I say about Phyllis (more affectionately known to some as ‘P’ or Philly)? During her working career Phyllis has worked for two main organisations: for nearly 30 years with GEC Marconi, the defence arm of the General Electric Company and then, for the last 21 years, here at St George’s.
Phyllis came in to provide some temporary admin support in 1999 and then later that year joined us permanently as our Administration Assistant in the Upper School office. Through the years Phyllis has taken on many different roles within the Administration team. She began supporting the Music department in 2009, back in the days with Philip Redfern at the helm as Director of Music and shared many laughs and antics with Linda Emslie. At that time, Phyllis also supported Carolyn Erdal when she headed up Careers; she also worked very closely with Kate Macsween, who took over when Carolyn left, followed by Jane Forbes until her retirement. Phyllis has now been working closely with Steph Hall in Careers for the past few years, supporting her with work placements and the Lifelong Learning Conference, Morrisby interviews and the UCAS Careers events to name but a few.
In 2012 Phyllis took on the additional responsibility of providing administration for Assessment Support. She has continued to coordinate the Support for Learning team and has set up many options interviews, AAA interviews and ESOL interviews over the years. She also provides administration for our Examinations officer, Rob. Phyllis also works with Jill in support of the UCAS application process and the number of personal statements having crossed her desk are now too numerous to count. Phyllis’ many other duties have included Reception cover every morning and lunchtime for many years now. She is our photocopying, laminating and binding guru in Upper School as well as having responsibility for ordering paper and stationery. She has also assisted Becca over the years with ticketing for school productions. In June 2019 Phyllis received an award for her 20 years' service with St George's.
In her home life, I am aware that Phyllis is one of twins and she also has another brother, Andrew. Phyllis lives with her father. She has a very close bond with her niece, Robyn, and her auntie Gracie.
She is an avid reader and loves her music and I am reliably informed that Amazon shares have more than doubled in value over recent years on account of purchases made!
Thank you Phyllis for all your sterling years of service – we shall miss you but you will not be forgotten; please do keep in touch as we will with you and we wish you many, many happy years in your retirement.
Ed Dias, Network Manager– January 2003 – August 2021, 18 years
Since taking over Network manager, Ed has been a careful steward of the IT resources in the School. The reliability of our network, which we have come to take for granted, does not happen by accident – it is the result of the knowledge and skills which Ed has brought to this role. Ed has been alert to trends and developments, carefully weighing the advantages and cost effectiveness for the organisation. The IT budget was always planned meticulously – and many a supplier will acknowledge Ed’s immense skill in negotiating the best possible price!
Notable large projects Ed was responsible for include virtualisation of the school’s server estate; rollout of wireless to every area of the school campus; switching to the MFD printers with the secure print solution; moving from the old analogue phone system to the IP Mitel System and, last but not least, the adoption of Office 365 and more recently Teams for delivering online lessons allowing us to teach remotely so effectively during the last two sessions.
The centrality of IT to the operation of this business brings with it a high level of responsibility and pressure for our IT staff; Ed has held this responsibility, which I suspect few give much thought about, with resilience.
We thank him for all his invaluable work for the School and wish him well in his new role at the Northern Lighthouse Board. Ed, you will be a hard act to follow and will be greatly missed by all at St George’s.
Linda Sloan, Lower School Welfare Manager, August 2007 – June 2021, 14 years
Linda has been nominated for the most steps made on a daily basis at St George's. The saying, you can't be in two places at once, does not apply to Linda who appears to travel at the speed of light! Linda has the ability to unjam a locker, print a document, complete registration, get a girl a mask from the Lower School kitchen, count the number of desks on LH4 and answer the phone to one of our parents all at the same time - or so it seems anyway!
There are many words we could use to describe Linda - productive, empathetic, intuitive, efficient, organised, approachable and selfless, to name but a few. She has certainly mastered the art of working with parents, having the patience of a saint with our girls and being a top teammate to staff. St George's has hugely benefitted from Linda's approach to her work and her creativity and will to ensure we are doing the best we possibly can.
Her help in organising trips, booking buses and counting donations from various charity events has proved invaluable over the years. Linda has also used her artistic flair to make bunting and other eye-catching decorations for different events and she always goes the extra mile to create fond memories for the girls in Lower School. Linda also has a great sense of humour and can be relied upon to join in with whatever theme we have on an own clothes day.
We have received a couple of anecdotes from Linda’s colleagues:
One tale recalled demonstrates Linda’s absolute professionalism and unconditional support from the outset. Not long after joining St George’s, Linda was asked to visit a Roseburn butcher shop to buy a sheep's heart for one of Marje Hall's biology lessons. On meeting Linda later for a morning coffee, she appeared rattled and rather nauseous. Linda explained that she had purchased the said 'heart' and carried it all the way up the road in a plastic bag, adding “I had to go into a butcher shop ... I'M A VEGETARIAN!!!
More recently, Linda received a phone call from a mother asking if she could ask her daughter to check her PE kit. The family pet hamster had gone missing, and they believed it might be in there. Fortunately, it wasn’t!
Linda's departure will undoubtedly leave a huge gap in our community. Her warmth and caring approach has made her a dream to work with and she will be missed by all. We wish you all the very best.
Moira Simpson, Junior School Support Assistant, August 2006 – January 2021, 14 years
Moira has had involvement with St George’s since 2002 was involved in extra-curricular activities in the Boarding House of St George's. Four years later she was appointed Admissions Officer and extra-curricular Activities Assistant and Dance Teacher for the Boarding House. Shortly afterwards Moira became a full-time member of the Houldsworth Boarding Team as a Resident Houseparent.
In August 2010 Moira relinquished her responsibility as Resident Houseparent and was appointed Junior School Support Assistant where she has been ever since. Based in the medical room, Moira has administered many an ice pack, attended to hundreds of grazes, bumps and bruises and she has provided a safe pair of hands in many a medical crisis. Always ready to lend a helping hand, staff in Junior School will miss her wide range of abilities.
In Junior School, Moira ran two Scottish Country dancing clubs with successful results in certification and competition, and she was instrumental in the success of the annual P5 Ceilidh. Moira’s interest in this field extended beyond school as she taught Scottish Country Dancing to children and adults for the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society Edinburgh Branch. In addition, she was a UK trainer for the Guide Association for many years and also a respected guide leader in West Lothian.
Moira’s contribution to Junior School and our wider School community has been much appreciated.
John Hammell, Communications Manager, Aug 1995-Jul 2019, 24 years
Mr John Hammell retired from his post at St George’s School in July 2019. We are pleased to now publish the tribute paid to him at that time, by Mrs Alex Hems. Very many apologies to John and Family that this tribute was not included in the Chronicle published in 2019.
John was an employee of St George’s for over 24 years. He was employed primarily to set up the school network, and was the architect behind the structure and provision of the network. He planned and implemented the development, from a fairly rudimentary provision of IT, to the modern network that it became, so integral to the operation of the school. At that time, John was working out of a cupboard off the ‘Hub’ which operated as the server room as well as John's office. The ‘Hub’ was an IT classroom and this was how it remained for many years.
Latterly, John’s job title changed to that of Communications Manager. Amongst other responsibilities, John religiously produced the school newsletter for parents both in its printed form and, in the last few years digitally, as e-news, a job carried out with unwavering dedication and commitment. The newsletter was always produced to a high standard and brought lots of joy and appreciation from parents who were able to follow what their children had been doing, through the news items written by the girls themselves.
John was super quick at responding to emails and always had new news item up in a jiffy. John was also a great man for his gadgets and loved his photography. He had a never-ending stock of library images so school was never short of an image on the website. He also loved coming up with great designs for all the school posters he produced.
John was well known for his generosity when it came to having wonderful biscuits and cakes on offer for staff in Lower School. A gesture which was very much appreciated!
John's association with the school extended further, as a former parent of St George's, he and his wife Sharon watched Megan's educational journey up through the school.
John retired in July 2019 ready to move to pastures new in Cromdale just outside Grantown on Spey, initially to continue his project to refurbish his new house and enjoy the spectacular views of the Cairngorms.
Never one not to be busily engaged in some IT related venture John is currently supporting Moray Council with one-to-one support for children without access to a home computer. A tough but very worthy cause.
John - we wish you and your family every continued happiness.
Irina Chelminska September 2003 – December 2020, 17 years
Irena has worked in the Junior School cleaning her areas of responsibility to a very high standard.
Irena has always been a calm, friendly and gentle presence in the Junior School but I know from her colleagues that she can at times display a wicked sense of fun and humour. She has a love of perfume, cosmetics and fine accessories and has always presented an elegant figure, even when dressed for her daily duties in school. Although initially employed to work in the Junior School, Irena stepped in to work a Sunday shift in Houldsworth House, while the Boarders are in residence over the school term. She has carried out this work since then, working round the girls to discretely clean and tidy up round them as they slowly emerge on a Sunday morning. Her calm demeanour will also be much missed there.
Irena has long lived a life of divided loyalties. She lives in Edinburgh with one of her sons but still has many family members who live in Poland. Until this year, her custom has been to take all school holiday periods as an opportunity to return to Poland to spend time with her family there. Circumstances this year have made that life-style almost impossible for Irena. I know that she has thought long and hard about her choices but has now made the decision to retire from her work in St George’s and return to her family in Poland.
We thank her for her very hard work and support during her years in St George’s and wish her all the very best for the future.
John Young May 2004– August 2021, 17 years
John joined St George’s in May 2004 as Maintenance Painter and Decorator, later taking on the role of General Facilities Assistant from March 2013. Over the years, he has kept the paintwork throughout the School looking clean and crisp as well as playing a large part in maintaining the grounds to a beautifully high standard.
He also helped to safely cross the girls on Garscube Terrace. The John/Dougie double act could often be heard singing “Happy Birthday” to a passing student and bringing a smile to their faces every day.
John and his wife, Julia, had intended to travel to Singapore and beyond during this new imminent chapter of his life. However, Julia, who had taken early retirement, returned to the NHS during the pandemic, and one of his sons, Martin, who was working in Singapore, returned to the UK in 2021. Therefore, plans for exotic holidays have been shelved in the meantime and replaced with weekends hillwalking with his son and daughter-in-law.
Retirement will also give John more time to follow his beloved Hibs and to start a new daily routine of taking one of his three grandsons to school.
We wish him a long, happy and healthy retirement with family and friends, hopefully in sunnier climes at some point in the near future.
Mary Cunningham September 2003 – December 2020, 17 years
Mary joined St George’s as a Facilities Assistant when The St George’s Centre had only been open for 2 years. Mary was employed initially to assist at lunch time with the daily service and clearing up of lunch. Mary had come from working in Pentland Nursing Home and her caring nature soon shown through.
Her role in St George’s gradually expanded to include covering the St George’s afternoon café, which she made very much her own, constantly seeking more exciting café goods to sell and in so doing greatly increasing business as well. She will be sadly missed by the many friends she made there. I am sure that the day will come when we will be allowed to re-open the Café but it will not be quite the same without Mary’s calm and efficient presence and regular shouts of “cheese panini!”.
In the early years of Mary’s employment, romance blossomed between her and the Head Chef, Phil Cunningham. Mary and Phil married in 2004.
Mary is one of a family of 10, has 2 children of her own and 1 granddaughter, Aria who is 4. Both she and Phil currently spend much time looking after Phil’s mother but Phil expects that Mary will now enjoy having more time to spend on other family members as well.
Mary and Phil have always enjoyed their holidays in Ullapool and when we are once again able to take travel and holidays for granted, are looking forward to making up for lost time. She is also really looking forward to being able to commit more time to her interest in craft work and developing her skills for card making and designing amongst other things.
We feel sure that Mary will miss her work in St George’s – but know that she will not miss the walk up the hill from Roseburn bus stop! We wish her a long and happy retirement and thank her for her many years of work for St George’s.
Trish Grant , Nursery Lead Practitioner, August 2019 – December 2020, 18 months
Trish was the Little Owls playroom lead practitioner where she created an atmosphere that was warm and inviting for our youngest learners and their families. Throughout the Autumn term, Trish was also responsible for the nursery cookery club. By her own admission, it is with a heavy heart that Trish is moving on from nursery. We too will miss her greatly but know that she leaves us to spend more time with her beloved family and loved ones.
Lesley Abbott – August 2018 – August 2021, 3 years
From 1990 to 2016 Lesley had a highly successful career in Banking. Opting for voluntary redundancy in 2016, however, she decided that she wanted to do something more personally rewarding.
From October 2016 to March 2018, Lesley held an Executive Administrator role at Tennis Scotland which gave her further exposure to mentoring and philanthropy programmes via Judy Murray's "She Rallies" events and other development initiatives and in August 2018 - Lesley joined St George's as Part Time Alumnae Relations and Database Administrator.
She quickly got to grips with the strategic plan, processes, database and colleagues relating directly to the department. Within Lesley's first term of work, she helped set up the database, saw the migration of data into the new system, met the OGA committee, organised reunions and heavily supported key events to celebrate the 130th birthday, including front of house management for Equality for Women with Judy Murray and Judy Dalton and 'An Evening with Gabby Logan'.
After the first term, Laura Ogilvie-Jones left her role at St George's and Mel Benson joined the department. Lesley's role changed to 'Foundation Office Assistant' and she increased her hours as well. Lesley’s considerable creative skills have led to the success of the Dragon Magazine. The Dragon has received excellent feedback from Old Girls, staff, parents and students.
Lesley was a key member of the team that launched the database, otherwise known as the Foundation website. This included input into layout of the website, effective communication and design on marketing material for the launch. This website has transformed our communications with our alumnae body, and enables us to connect our current students up with parents and former pupils who are willing to offer support through work experience, mentoring etc.
More recently Lesley has worked in partnership with Mairi MacNaughton, and together they have built on the great work that launched our Foundation Office, and overseen a steady growth in sign-ups to our Facebook page etc. I have greatly appreciated the perspective that Lesley brings to life at St George’s, from her previous experiences in banking, and also the volunteering that is close to her heart.
Duncan Wright, Senior Librarian, August 2016 – August 2021, 5 years
Before joining St George’s, Duncan held the position of Senior School Librarian at ESMS, during which time he was named School Librarian of the Year – a prestitious UK-wide award recognising the excellent work that is carried out in school libraries every day and to highlight the current practice of those whose work is outstanding.
Seeking a new challenge, Duncan joined St George’s as Senior Librarian in 2016 where he has proven to be a super colleague and has contributed greatly to the development of learning resources at the School.
He certainly brightened up the library service across the whole school with visual and inspiring quotations on the wall and an approachable manner, which meant that students voted with their feet in going to the library.
He has been instrumental in developing online resources as well as updating our stock of books. Duncan has pioneered a modern approach to accessing resources, introducing the online library software we have today.
In addition, he has made a huge contribution to developing the skills of our students in accessing resources for their learning and their awareness on how to critically assess the reliability of information. His contributions to the HPQ, where he has taught research skills, has been invaluable and he has worked similarly with other year groups from Nursery to Upper 6.
His enthusiasm and drive, encouraging Douglas in all house events has been greatly appreciated by staff and students in Douglas. Duncan's natural pleasant demeanour ensured that he got the best out of all he worked with.
Duncan’s contributions go beyond the Library and his Head of House responsibilities. He has also been involved with football training for the younger girls.
Chloe would also like to thank Duncan personally for welcoming her to St George’s and the world of school libraries, for his unwavering support and for his company over countless lunches on the library balcony – in almost all weathers.
We wish Duncan success in his new role as Library Trainer/Consultant with Accessit, the software company which provides the school's library management system. Our heartfelt thanks for his contribution since arriving at St George’s. He will be missed.
Adam Moore January 21 – August 21 - Adam joined our Catering department last January. Although Adam has not been with us for long, he has been a professional and diligent hard worker. Adam is leaving us to join his cousin’s restaurant business, initially undertaking further training in Manchester before returning to Edinburgh for the opening. We wish him well in this exciting new venture.
Fiona Boyd January 21 – August 21 - Fiona joined St George's on 8th January 2021 as weekend chef in Houldsworth House. Fiona possesses a terrific work ethic, aptitude and integrity. She took time to get to know the girls individually, fitting in well to the homely environment within Houldsworth. She has been a pleasure to work with and we wish her all the best.
Frances Driscoll, Junior School Classroom Assistant and After School Assistant, April – June 21
Anna Stirling, School Nurse, January - June 21
Nicola Sobieraj, Academic Administrator, January - June 21
Megan Monczko, Nursery and Junior School Assistant, January - June 2021
Alice King, Graduate Boarding Assistant, October 20- June 21