St John’s Academy’s longest serving members of staff head for retirementAt the end of this term three of St John’s Academy’s longest serving members of staff – Lynne Cope, Mark Humphries and Kay McArdle are retiring after a total of ninety-nine years of teaching at the school between them.
Lynne Cope arrived at St John’s in 1984 to teach English, straight from university. Originally from South Wales, Lynne has completed thirty-five years of teaching at St. John’s.
She told Marlborough.news: “I loved the school from the start and never wanted to leave. I have been very settled here and put down roots. I’m still very passionate about my subject and being in the classroom. I enjoy seeing students progress to the next stage of their lives.”
Mark Humphries moved to St John’s in 1985 from Hexham, Northumberland to take up the post of Head of Geography. He has taught for forty-one years, thirty-four of them at St John’s. “From the first lesson I taught here I loved it. I enjoy it now just as much as I did then. Children are interesting, funny and keep me young.”
Kay McArdle arrived at St John’s in 1989 to teach History. She had previously taught for five years in Kent.
As well as teaching their subjects, Kay and Lynne have been the face of the Sixth-Form at St John’s for over twenty years - Kay as Director of Sixth-Form and Lynne as Assistant and Head of Year 13.
Kay commented: “I like working with the older students. It is very satisfying seeing students go onto the next stage. I still really love my subject and working with the Department and Sixth-Form team.”
All three are married to teachers who have also taught at St John’s. Their children all attended St John’s and went on to university. They share many happy memories of their time at the school and have witnessed many changes in education.
So what was life at St. John’s like back in the eighties?
“It was less exam focused.”
“Teachers had fewer resources at their disposal but they had more independence.”
“There was no National Curriculum. You weren’t teaching to the exam all the time so you had the chance to be more creative.”
It was “more sociable. Teachers met in the staffroom and chatted over lunch rather than sending each other emails.”
And one aspect none of them misses – St John’s split site - which meant a twenty-minute break after each lesson to allow teachers and students to commute between the buildings.
Twenty-first century St John’s with its single site building allowing most teachers to have their own classroom, the availability of the internet and IT resources have all made a huge difference to teachers and students alike.
Mark commented: “The new St. John’s building is exceptional. It’s a beautiful environment to work in and we should never take it for granted.”
However, not all changes have been welcomed. “The creation of league tables, putting school against school and the obsession with data is not healthy.”
“The classroom teacher should be the most important person in the school but sometimes schools lose sight of this. Resources should be focused more on classroom teachers and pupils as top priority.”
Mark has held a variety of different posts and as School Trips Advisor his commitment to education beyond the classroom came to the foreground. He has accompanied and organised trips all over the world offering students social and cultural enrichment. These included trips to: Africa, North America, Western and Eastern Europe.
“When ex-students stop me in the High Street, it’s the trips they remember and want to talk about.”
What plans do they have for retirement?
Mark is embarking on a big building project to extend his home which he describes as ‘Grand Designs from scratch.’ For Lynne and Kay it’s a chance to take stock and think about the next stage of their lives.
So would they advise others to go into teaching. “Yes, if you go in with your eyes open, if you’re organised, passionate about your subject and like young people. Then it is a good profession and can be very rewarding.”
Ian Tucker is Principal of St. John’s: “There aren't many schools that say goodbye to over a hundred years of experience in one go, but everyone at St John's Academy, Marlborough wishes Kay McArdle, Lynne Cope and Mark Humphries well as they set off at the end of this term to enjoy their well- earned retirement.”
“Many generations of students and staff have been fortunate enough to have been taught by and worked alongside these incredible teachers. You don’t have to have known them very long to realise how highly they are regarded and how positive they have always been about teaching young people.”
“Their dedication has been unwavering and this Academy has been fortunate to have had such hardworking and dedicated members of staff for so long. They will be sorely missed - we wish them every success and happiness!”