Hawick teacher comes full circle as she retires after 45-year career

Borders teacher Jessie Learmonth came full circle as she brought her 45-year career in education to a close.

By Paul Kelly
Thursday, 9th July 2020, 12:43 pm
Updated Thursday, 9th July 2020, 1:00 pm
Former teacher Jessie Learmonth with grandson Hamish.
Former teacher Jessie Learmonth with grandson Hamish.

After training as a physical education teacher at Dunfermline College in Fife between 1972 and 1975, Jessie worked for five years at Blackburn Academy in West Lothian and met her late husband Peter there.

When Peter became assistant headteacher at Hawick High School in 1980, Jessie also took up a post there and the couple moved to Ashkirk, and she still lives there now.

So began a 40-year working career in the Borders interrupted only to have a family.

Her last working day was spent back at the Buccleuch Road school, teaching key workers’ children during the Covid-19 lockdown.

The mother of three has enjoyed a varied career taking in both primaries and secondaries.

Between 1982 and 1988 she did general supply in secondaries across the Borders, mostly at Hawick High and Jedburgh Grammar School.

She said of that experience: “I was never content to babysit these classes, so for longer stints I learned the next stage in the curriculum and taught what was needed.

“I enjoyed my time teaching maths, English, technical drawing and French but drew the line at German and business studies, where I had to learn to type ahead of my class.”

When Jessie began a break from teaching in 1989 to raise her family, she stayed in education as a parent helper at their school in Lilliesleaf and ran a playgroup in Ashkirk.

Enjoying that experience at Lilliesleaf, she decided to retrain as a primary teacher and spent a year as a classroom assistant at Knowepark Primary in Selkirk.

The last 15 years of her career were spent at Trinity Primary School in Hawick, which she describes as a special place, explaining: “The staff are a team and very caring and supportive of each other, both personally and professionally.

“I have loved my teaching life. Many times it has been challenging, especially the endless paperwork, but I have loved the lightbulb moments when a child suddenly sees the solution to something they have been struggling with.”

As for the future, Jessie, 66, says she had no specific plans and intends only to “go with the flow”, although stints looking after her two, soon to be three, grandchildren are on the agenda.

Jessie hasn’t had a leaving do yet due to lockdown laws, but one will be staged when times return to something like normal.

She added: “The hardest thing about walking away is missing the children and my colleagues.

“Work was challenging at times, especially when they kept changing the goalposts, from the five to 14 curriculum to the curriculum for excellence.

“Things kept changing and we just had to keep evolving.

“Secondary and primary both have their challenges and I enjoyed both of them. I didn’t move from primary to secondary to make things easier because it wasn’t. It was just different, and I enjoyed both of them.

“I have no concrete plans yet. The phrase that we often use in school is you go with the flow, and I have to see where my river of life takes me now.

“I haven’t had a goodbye yet, but it will happen sometime. I would have been quite happy to leave quietly, but I wouldn’t have been allowed to do that because the staff would have made something out of it.”

Jessie is mother to Charlotte, Adam and Keith and has two grandchildren, Hamish, three, and five-month-old Eilidh.

Karen Dixon, headteacher at Trinity Primary, said: “We want to thank Jessie for her hard work and commitment to our school for over 15 years.

“Jessie always put children at the heart of everything she did and will be greatly missed.”