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Obituary - David Montague 1967-2012

David Montague loved language. The 45-year-old loved teaching it, but he also loved punning on it, playing with it and, quite simply, speaking it.

The Spanish and French teacher was born in Ontario, Canada, in 1967, and graduated from Ottawa's Carleton University with a degree in Spanish and linguistics. Keen to put his language skills to practical use, he moved to Madrid in 1990 to teach English as a foreign language.

Unfailingly energetic, he lifted the spirits of pupils in his classes. Though teenagers might traipse into his classroom sullen and overtired, they rarely left it that way.

Mr Montague relished language in all its forms. Talking made him happy: he would enthusiastically recount his experiences in local tapas bars. And he quickly acquired a reputation for wordplay and puns. It was not unusual to hear staff and pupils groaning at his bad jokes. "He was one of the few people whose jokes were even worse than mine," a later headteacher said.

In 1994, he took a master's degree at the University of Reading. From there he moved to Saudi Arabia, before returning to spend a year teaching in Bilbao. But, in 1998, he decided to move back to Britain and was subsequently appointed to teach languages at Reading Girls' School. Though he swiftly rose to become head of department, he found that his Spanish teaching time was significantly reduced. And so, in 2006, he moved to the independent Reading Blue Coat School.

Here, he expected pupils to work hard, but he also believed that they learned best if they enjoyed their subjects. And so he often used humour and practical jokery in lessons. Once, at the end of term, he told pupils he would allow them to watch an episode of The Simpsons. It was supposed to be in Spanish; instead, he played a version in Italian, with Greek subtitles.

And during a trip to Barcelona with Year 9 - one of several foreign trips he organised - he arranged a surprise dance lesson. He took great glee in watching the teenage boys troop awkwardly on to the dance floor. But he always led from the front: he joined in the lesson, too.

He wanted to challenge pupils. He had high expectations of them, and would become frustrated if they did not fulfil their potential. But he did not allow this frustration to show. Instead, he willingly gave up lunchtimes to help anyone who might be struggling.

His second passion was the environment. He set up an eco-schools committee at Blue Coat, and would roam through classrooms with its members, reminding colleagues to switch off lights and projectors. And he was delighted by the many environmental features of the school's new building, due to open in September.

Unfortunately, he was not to see it completed. On his scooter at a level crossing on 29 May, he was struck by a train. He died instantly.

David Montague is survived by his wife, Susan, and his children, Emily and Christopher.

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