Coronavirus: Students honour Scottish teacher who died

Students and colleagues pay tribute to hugely popular teacher, thought to be first in Scotland to die after contracting coronavirus

Tes Reporter

Coronavirus: Staff and students have paid tribute to teacher Gerry McHugh, who died aged 58

Colleagues and students have been paying tribute to a teacher in Scotland who died after contracting coronavirus.

Gerry McHugh, who taught maths at Notre Dame High in Greenock, passed away on Saturday afternoon, aged 58. School Leaders Scotland general secretary Jim Thewliss told Tes Scotland that Mr McHugh was the first teacher he knew of in Scotland to die after contracting coronavirus.

Mr McHugh was described as a "legend" by one former student, a sentiment that was echoed by many.

As they have been unable to mark his passing in the usual ways, such as by leaving flowers, students have instead honoured Mr McHugh, a Manchester United fan, by wearing red and posting on social media using the hashtag #redforgerry.

Headteacher Kate Couttie said: “This loss will have a devastating effect on our entire school community, our mathematics department who loved him dearly, the wider staff who found him a rich source of experience and knowledge, as well as our pupils and parents (past and present), all of whom respected him so highly.

"Every teacher hopes that they can make a connection with young people  Gerry had a unique gift in being able to inspire every single pupil who walked through his classroom door.

Coronavirus victim 'was a true gentleman'

“Pupils at Notre Dame High School loved learning mathematics because of him. Gerry had a kind word for everyone he spoke to, he was also funny, committed and caring in everything he did for our school – a true gentleman."

The Greenock Telegraph reported that the school had been inundated with messages from people paying their respects.

Ms Couttie said: “We have been overwhelmed by the messages of support which have all had to be outwith the community of Notre Dame High School due to restrictions at this difficult time. I would ask everyone to hold on to this faith as we come to terms with such a sad loss.

"Gerry was cared for tremendously by staff at Inverclyde Royal Hospital and at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. Some of these staff were former pupils, parents of our pupils and relatives of our staff.

“His family thank staff and pupils for their condolences and the greatest tribute to Gerard would be to aspire to be the type of caring person he was and to work hard and make him proud of whatever they achieve in their life.” 

“We are truly indebted to them all and when it is safe to do so, our school community will thank NHS staff for the work they have done in very difficult circumstances for Mr McHugh."

Local councillor and former Notre Dame student Chris McEleny said: "The word legend is overused but he was a legend. A great ambassador for Inverclyde education and Catholic education in Inverclyde his whole life. He will be sorely missed."

Another former Notre Dame student, boxer Rhys McCole said: "Mr McHugh was a great man and teacher who encouraged and included everyone. He was always checking on me and wanting me to achieve the best I could and I will continue to follow his wise words."

Mr McHugh was also a supporter of Morton Football Club.

Francesca Brennan said on Twitter: "I'll fondly remember my old teacher Mr McHugh for the three 'M's: maths, Morton and magnanimity. This kind and generous man will be sorely missed."

Following Mr McHugh's death, his school tweeted: "Remember everyone, #StayHome to #HelpTheNHS and to #SaveLives"

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