Bouquet of the week;Margaret Rothwell

15th October 1999 at 01:00
It's great to get postcards from pupils asking for flowers for a favourite teacher. Gemma Thomas from Weston-super-Mare wrote in - filling two sides of A4 - about her form tutor Mrs Margaret Rothwell. They're pictured here at Broadoak community school in Weston.

Mrs Rothwell is a chemist and has been teaching science for 30 years, the past eight at Broadoak. Gemma, who is now doing GCSEs in Year 11, joined the school at the end of Year 7, having been bullied elsewhere. She says she was lucky to find "a lovely friend" in her new tutor.

Then Gemma's father died suddenly. And Mrs Rothwell was diagnosed with breast cancer. Although absent on sick leave herself, "Mrs Rothwell helped us all as much as she could - she wrote to me, phoned me and visited me even though she was undergoing treatment herself."

In Year 9, Mrs Rothwell was back - "the friendly glow filled our classroom" - and the school underwent great upheaval as a new building was planned. Mrs Rothwell is now having more treatment for the cancer which recurred, and her pupils miss her. Last week she went into school to reassure them and to receive her bouquet in assembly. "She deserves a gold medal for what she's been through, never mind flowers," says her fondest pupil.

Mrs Rothwell feels she did only what any good form tutor would do for a child who's been bereaved. "But I'm so glad Gemma is confident now."

Previously she taught in a private girls' school in Weston which closed. "The children at Broadoak have a very natural, caring side that warms you to them. I count myself very lucky that I've gone from one lovely school to another."

Citizenship, a sense of justice and the power of people working together are recurrent themes in this edition of Friday magazine. Today the Nobel peace prize will be announced and it could go to a remarkable children's movement in Colombia, born out of a civil war of such violence that 1.5 million people are refugees in their own land. Let's hope the eyes of the world turn to these killing fields where through "El Retorno de la Alegria" (The Return of Happiness) children have asserted their right to play, to sing, to be heard and to live in peace.

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