Obituary - Roberta Galustian

23rd October 2009 at 01:00
She treated her pupils as if they were her own children - and her colleagues were like family. For Roberta Galustian, life and job were inseparable, and she is being mourned as much at school as at home.

1954-2009

She treated her pupils as if they were her own children - and her colleagues were like family. For Roberta Galustian, life and job were inseparable, and she is being mourned as much at school as at home.

The primary teacher saw herself as a "catcher in the rye" who could influence children when they were young so that they could grow into the best adults possible. Her positivity also helped her colleagues, who knew when Mrs Galustian was approaching because of her trademark greeting of "Cooee".

Known for her vibrancy and her love of cooking and sewing, Mrs Galustian was also passionate about reading classic children's books aloud to her pupils at St Mary's School in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire.

Her classroom was renowned for its welcoming atmosphere and what were often described as "phenomenal" displays.

Mrs Galustian regarded her skills as a homemaker for husband Varouj and children Rebecca, 24, and Oliver, 20, as equally useful in the classroom.

She played a key part in school plays and fairs, ran a sewing club and held mammoth chutney-making sessions every year.

She loved flowers, and a sea of blooms from grateful teachers and children now cover her grave. They have also left conkers and candles.

Mrs Galustian's wake was held at the school. Its flag flew at half-mast for several weeks after her death and two sets of balloons have been released by pupils "to join her in heaven".

Mrs Galustian, 56, who died in September, grew up in south London and Penarth in Wales. She studied home economics in Bath before moving to Germany, where she taught English.

After returning to England, she worked briefly for an airline company, where she met Varouj.

She completed teacher training at a junior school while studying at Brunel University, then went on to work at Victoria Junior School in Feltham, Middlesex, for a decade. She taught at St Mary's for seven years, most recently working with Year 3 pupils.

Mrs Galustian, who lived in Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire, adored her own time as a pupil, going so far as to dislike school holidays!

This was the motivation for her decision to train as a teacher. She loved the time she spent with children and saw her role as preparing them for the future.

Mrs Galustian was known for her love of cooking and enjoyed entertaining friends for dinner at home. She also had a keen interest in farmers' markets.

At work, she was bright and bubbly, and known for her sense of humour.

Always meticulous and organised, she had spent the summer holidays planning all her lessons for the coming year when she was diagnosed with cancer at the end of August.

Her illness was a great shock to her and her family, but she was determined to stay involved in school life despite being unable to return to work in September.

While in hospital, she continued to do as much as she could, often filling in word books. Colleagues kept her updated about the new term, but she died just three weeks into her treatment.

Mrs Galustian's family said the reaction to her death had been "mindblowing".

A tree of remembrance display at the school is full of messages that will be placed in a book for Rebecca, Oliver and Varouj.

A more permanent memorial is being planned.

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