Obituary

25th June 2010 at 01:00
A tribute to Colin Wood, former assistant head at Falkirk High

Colin Wood, former assistant head at Falkirk High, who has died aged 70, would not have called himself a mountaineer, but he "bagged" many Munros. He was never in the Army, but he fought and won many personal battles. He would not have claimed to be an intellectual, but he stimulated the intellect of many young people.

Partly because of the early death of his mother, Colin was sent to George Watson's College in Edinburgh as a boarder, aged 13. He never enjoyed the experience, but it created in him a toughness and resilience which stood him in good stead for the rest of his life and almost certainly contributed to his desire for a stable and happy family life.

After graduating from Glasgow University, he followed a research career in the field of electron microscopy and its applications to crystal morphology, but was unable to complete his PhD, because of a supervision problem. Disappointment was swallowed up in his enthusiasm for his new teaching career.

His first appointment was to the chemistry department in the High School of Stirling, where a vigorous group of young teachers was busy fleshing out what came to be known as the alternative syllabus in chemistry. Colin was not content to be a teacher bound by the syllabus, but sought to understand how pupils learned a complex subject like chemistry. In 1975, he completed a part-time MSc in science education at Glasgow University. By 1972, he had become principal teacher of chemistry at Stirling High and later moved to his assistant headship at Falkirk High.

He was active in the work of the Royal Society of Chemistry and was elected to a Fellowship of the RSC. He took up a one-year RSC research fellowship at Glasgow University's centre for science education, developing the theme of creative problem-solving (as opposed to the sterile number crunching which normally passes for problem-solving). It culminated in the publication of his book Creative Problem-Solving in Chemistry. He was delighted to learn of the book's use across the English- speaking world, but it was largely ignored in his native Scotland.

His move to Stirling led to marriage to Sheila Nicolson. They had three children and seven grandchildren. For 40 years, he suffered health problems involving serious operations and consequent treatments. This, however, did not keep him from his professional work, his hobbies, his interests in scouting, his concern to help young people to learn to swim and, with Sheila, to support dyslexic children in overcoming their problems.

Colin would not have wanted to be flattered, but those who knew him as pupil, student, colleague, teacher, friend, researcher, husband, brother, father and grandfather have much cause to give thanks for his life.

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