Popular head teacher retires after 37 years

21 Jul 2013

After 37 years at Newcastle Church High School, a dedicated and long-serving junior head teacher, is looking forward to her retirement after saying farewell to pupils and colleagues, this week.

Girls, staff and parents at the Jesmond based independent girls’ school have been saying their goodbyes to Miss Judith Cunningham with a series of events and activities, designed to celebrate her time at the school and the overwhelming contribution she has made.

Starting at Church High in 1976, Judith began her Church High career as a part time Drama teacher teaching both infant and junior pupils. She soon became a Form Teacher in the infant department, before taking on the role as Deputy Head for 10 years and, following that, the role of Junior Head in 2007.

Throughout her time at Church High, Judith has been heavily involved in teaching Drama, which has always been a subject she is passionate about. She is committed to instilling confidence in girls through performance, adding new areas to the school syllabus including a project where junior girls are given the opportunity to write their own opera.

Speaking about her achievements, which have seen her involved in over 100 school productions which became well-known in the region for the high standards achieved and the confidence and composure displayed by the girls, Judith said: “It has been a huge privilege to be a part of the long history of Church High School and I would like to wish all our girls and staff the very best for the future.

“Looking back on my time at Church High, I’m probably most proud of the developments made in Drama to help support our girls. For a number of years, we have been running a project with the Year Five and Six girls where they are involved in writing their own opera from start to finish. I truly believe that encouraging young people to express themselves through drama and performing, helps them grow in confidence and gives them all a voice.

“There are so many things I will miss about Church High but most of all I will miss the girls; the funny things they say, the way they arrive every day, so excited and full of enthusiasm and the heartening conversations I have with them on a daily basis. I am very sad to be leaving such a wonderful school but I am also excited by the opportunities that await during the next chapter of my life.”

In almost four decades at Church High, Miss Cunningham has been part of a number of significant milestones for the school including developments of the facilities, curriculum changes and in more recent months, the announcement that Church High will merge with Central High to form the region’s leading girls’ school, Newcastle High School for Girls.

She has also helped to contribute towards the fundraising of many thousands of pounds for a host of local charities. In recognition of her fundraising efforts which have amounted to over £30,000 being donated to the children’s charity Barnardos, representatives from the charity visited school recently to present Miss Cunningham with an award for her services.

Joy Gatenby, head teacher at Church High School, said: “Miss Cunningham is a truly inspirational teacher and will be very much missed by all at Church High School. I would like to thank her for the incredible contribution she has made to school life. She has the satisfaction of retiring, not only with a wealth of happy memories, but also knowing that she has set thousands and thousands of young girls off on the road to personal happiness and success. Judith has a unique skill for bringing out the very best in all pupils and making each and every one feel special, and she will be a big loss to the school. We all wish her every success and enjoyment from her retirement.”

Judith has many plans for new adventures after life in the classroom and is looking forward to spending more time in the USA, where her son and young grandchildren are currently living. She also hopes to spend more time enjoying her many hobbies, including walking and cycling.

She continued: “I will greatly miss all the wonderful members of our school community, I will take away many happy memories during my time at Church High and have loved all the different aspects of my career at the school.

“There are so many exciting times ahead for the school as it prepares to join together with Central High to form the region’s leading girls’ school. Newcastle High School for Girls will take the very best of both schools and the future is incredibly bright for all our girls.

“Church High will always have a very special place in my heart but I know the opportunities that await all pupils at Newcastle High School for Girls, are just fantastic and I am very excited to see everything come together.”

Over the past few weeks, the farewell events have included a boat trip on the River Tyne, a junior school picnic, a final assembly and special staff reception.