'Remarkable' teacher with rare disability dies, aged 24

19th April 2013 at 01:00

Tributes have been paid to an inspirational teacher who died at the age of 24.

Laura Mackay became a successful history and modern studies teacher, despite a level of disability that the University of Stirling's school of education had never before encountered in a student.

Ms Mackay, who worked at Crieff High in Perth and Kinross, had spinal muscular atrophy. She died on 31 March of illness related to her condition.

"Laura was a remarkable young lady - she had done so much in her young life," said Mark Priestley, her university adviser of studies.

Professor Priestley had never previously known a student with her type of disability, and admitted that initially he had doubts about how she would cope.

Ms Mackay, a former Kinross High student, used a wheelchair because her condition resulted in weak muscles. But Professor Priestley recalled "a strong teaching student" and a "passionate believer in inclusion", who campaigned on behalf of disabled students and improved conditions on campus.

She spent 2010-11, her probation year, at Queen Anne High in Dunfermline and was the subject of an October 2010 TESS feature.

Technology played a large part in her teaching: a tablet computer enabled her to send text to a smartboard, and she planned lessons using voice-recognition software.

Ms Mackay told TESS: "I want the kids to enjoy school. I also want to make a difference in their lives and help them develop, not just in my subject but the skills they are going to need for life."

The following year she went on supply and took a one-year MSc in teaching English to speakers of other languages.

She spoke to TESS again for a January 2012 News Focus, in which she could recall no bad experiences from working in schools, having always been delighted with the support she received.

Ms Mackay was described as an "inspirational" teacher by her most recent school, Crieff High.

Headteacher Christine Ross said: "Laura was with us only for a year, but in that time her enthusiasm for teaching and encouraging pupils to do their best was evident to everyone at Crieff High School.

"Her determination not to allow her disability to prevent her from pursuing a career she loved was a real inspiration, and Laura will be very much missed here."

henry.hepburn@tess.co.uk.

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