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Obituary - Timothy Groom 1960-2010

Known for being the life and soul of the party, Timothy Groom never shied away from sharing his enthusiasm for music, dancing and food with pupils.

The flamboyant science teacher, who died suddenly at the age of 49, became a self-taught expert in hobbies he took up out of school time. Keen for children to share in his enjoyment, his unselfconscious displays charmed everyone at Portslade Community College in Brighton.

This love of drama was clear to anyone who sat in Mr Groom's lessons. Under his watch science became full of whiz, bang and pop-style experiments which left pupils engrossed.

He was also uncompromising, encouraging children to move out of their comfort zones and tackle difficult ideas.

Mr Groom started his career as a laboratory technician in London after graduating with a science degree from King's College. His passion for the subject, and for working with young people, led him to train as a teacher and he worked in the capital before moving to Brighton.

He relished living on the south coast - taking advantage of all the arts events on offer. Mr Groom was an accomplished pianist and went to as many music concerts as he could. He was also a big success at Falmer High School, where he worked as a science teacher and head of Year 9 for 12 years.

In 2005, Mr Groom and his partner decided to leave Brighton and travel the world. On his return, he worked as a supply teacher around the city and was eventually taken on full time at Portslade. The ethos of the school, which encourages teachers to be experimental, suited him perfectly.

Mr Groom was also interested in theology and took a diploma in the subject while completing his degree. He volunteered to take RE lessons at Portslade during a staff shortage. He was a committed Christian and regularly attended church, something he kept private from colleagues. But he was interested in other religions and cultures, enjoying teaching the Aztecs in recent lessons.

Other interests were more apparent. Mr Groom was known for being a fantastic cook, able to easily whip up banquets for 60 people. He introduced weekly "deli days" to Portslade, bringing in a buffet lunch for other teachers with a particular theme - for example, Indian or Spanish. Science meetings became popular as word spread about Mr Groom's refreshments, which usually included cake.

At social events with colleagues he was the life and soul of the party, keen for everyone to enjoy themselves and always eager to order champagne.

He took up dancing to keep fit and became so good he was selected to compete at prestigious competitions in Blackpool. He played a key part in school productions and was always available to accompany children in Portslade's talent shows. Mr Groom's inspiration was dance and music from the era of icons, such as Fred Astaire. As his skills progressed, he ran an after-school club teaching children to jive.

He was always willing to demonstrate his skills, but never in an arrogant way. He wanted pupils to be a part of what he was doing and this made him popular. On one occasion, headteacher Stuart McLaughlin found him holding an impromptu tap dancing class while on lunch duty.

Known for his commitment to his pupils, Mr Groom regularly stayed behind to hold extra lessons or help with rehearsals. He was caring, likeable and interested in children's progress. Indeed, pastoral care was one of Mr Groom's talents. He was exceptionally popular with students - known for being both easy to talk to and for his extraordinary neckwear, which featured carrots, shoes, fountain pens and even the periodic table.

Staff and students were shocked by Mr Groom's death on January 31. His memorial concert showed the legacy he left to the school - children sang, danced, lit candles and let off balloons.

A book of memories has been set up at the school and a collection was taken for Off The Fence, a Hove-based charity helping vulnerable people, which Mr Groom supported.

Mr Groom would have been 50 next month. He had planned to celebrate with a holiday in Alaska at Easter.

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