Beth McDonald

10th February 2012 at 00:00
The depute head with a gift for lateral thinking inspired pupils and colleagues alike

Beth McDonald, depute headteacher at Craigmount High in Edinburgh, died last year after a short illness at the age of 59. She was a true educationalist who believed passionately in the state system and worked tirelessly for the benefit of staff and pupils. A geographer who never lost her love of the subject, Beth continued to inspire young people until shortly before her death.

After leaving Bo'ness Academy, Beth studied at the University of St Andrews, working on vacation in America long before this was fashionable. On completing her teacher training, she took up her first post at Bathgate Academy under the watchful eye of principal teacher Donald Steele, whom she described as a lovely, kind man and the inspiration behind the teacher she became.

She remained at Bathgate Academy for 20 years as assistant principal teacher of social subjects, principal teacher of geography, then assistant headteacher. It was there that she met her husband Malcolm.

Her next post was as depute headteacher at Craigmount High in Edinburgh. During her 16 years there, she completed the Scottish Qualification for Headship, had two spells as acting headteacher and was highly respected for her professionalism and integrity, both in the school community and across the city of Edinburgh.

During this time she also oversaw the construction of the new school building, and was just as comfortable in a high- visibility vest and steel-capped boots as behind her desk working with students.

Colleagues have commented that Beth was one of the most intelligent people they have worked with. She had an ability to see straight to the heart of a problem and was always solution-focused, having a real gift for lateral thinking. This was especially evident during timetabling season when she would skilfully provide time for flexible arrangements to meet the needs of a range of pupils.

Beth's sense of fun was not always evident to the pupils, but staff were regularly impressed by her ability to think up a leaving song or a poem at short notice. Her love of music, dance and Abba was legendary. Many colleagues and friends were on the receiving end of her generosity and hospitality.

Teaching was truly in Beth's blood: her father was a former headteacher of South Queensferry Junior School and her sister Christine is also a teacher. Beth's work was important to her, but more so her family.

Around 70 pupils and staff from Craigmount ran in memory of Beth in the BUPA Great Edinburgh Run, raising funds for cancer research. This, together with the recent school show, Hit The Stage, performed as a memorial to her, are testament to the high regard in which Beth was held.

Dr John Campbell is headteacher of Craigmount High.

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