Obituary: Helene Shearer, 90

Helene Shearer was a progressive teacher
Helene Shearer was a progressive teacher
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Helene Shearer, a gifted teacher and tireless CAB volunteer, has died, aged 90.

Born the daughter of Charles Hall Shearer and Helen Jane Shearer (nee Bryden), both originally of Ayr, Helene was destined for academia and became Dux of Ayr Academy Primary School before studying at George Watson’s in Edinburgh.

Just as National Service was ending, she spent a short time in the ATS, rising quickly to the rank of corporal. Afterwards, she thought to follow her brother into the medical profession, but soon came to realise this would not be the best way to serve others. She transferred to the Faculty of Arts, graduating in history and adding a diploma in education at Moray House.

She took up her first teaching post at Loanhead Junior Secondary School where she developed a concern for less gifted pupils. It was also here that she learned her management skills under the tutelage of then headmaster, Robertson Sutherland.

Her next teaching post was at Currie High School where she became lady adviser – a promoted post with responsibility mainly for girls in the days before true equality of opportunity.

Her progressive approach attracted the attention of the then director of education who suggested to the headteacher appointed to the new Craigmount High School – described at the time by the Evening News as “the school for the Space Age” – to visit Helene at Currie. The result of that meeting was that she was appointed one of two deputy headteachers.

Countless pupils, assistant teachers and principal teachers have had good reason to thank Helene for her practical approach to problem solving. Always ahead of her time, Helene introduced counselling support and a social activity programme at Craigmount barely thought of by other educational establishments.

After taking early retirement, Helene spent the next 20 years working tirelessly as a volunteer for the Citizens Advice Bureau from their Portobello office. She also found time to act as a Blue Badge Guide.

Only once was Helene known to be defeated: by the introduction of computers which would not bend to her will and ultimately led to her retirement from CAB.

At the age of 80, Helene took up the cause of safeguarding the pensions of retired teachers, joining the Edinburgh branch of the Scottish Retired Teachers Association and becoming national president, while safeguarding the benefits rights of residents of Falcon Court, where she had her retirement flat.

Outside her professional life Helene was an avid traveller and reader, particularly of detective novels. In her younger days she played tennis, golf and bowls.

Helene died peacefully at Ashley Court Nursing Home on 30 June. Her brother, Charles William Shearer, predeceased her.

KIRSTIN COLE and SHEILA KIRK