Teresa McNeill

22nd July 2011 at 01:00
The English teacher with a voracious intellect brought style and wit to her school

Teresa McNeill was a lover of life and a lover of language. Warm and witty, sociable and mischievous, she would amble along the corridors of Hyndland Secondary in Glasgow in a riot of colour.

Arguably the most stylish member of staff at the school, Teresa had a taste for the good things in life: sumptuous fabrics, fine wine and an enviable collection of jewellery, but she also enjoyed simple pleasures: cherry blossom, the sun on her skin and a single, perfect line of poetry.

She was unapologetically highbrow - the merest indication that a conversation in the staffroom was veering towards the inane and she was off without a backwards glance. Her intellect was voracious and she consumed current affairs, describing herself as a "news junkie".

Time spent on inset days was not wasted - Teresa could complete the Guardian crossword puzzle in record time while simultaneously pointing out with caustic clarity the failings in any particular speaker. This was the Teresa the English department knew and loved.

Born in 1956 in Dumbarton, she was one of seven children. Her intellect and innate sense of justice emerged early and she once famously boxed her Latin teacher's ears for bullying a classmate.

She had a strong work ethic and this won her a place studying French and literature at Strathclyde University. There she secured not only her degree but the affections of her future husband, Charlie Robertson. She abhorred cliches, but Charlie was, without doubt, her soulmate.

After university she put her degree to good use as a bilingual PA in Paris. With her own style and panache, she was very much at home in the city of lights. But Charlie was in London and after they eloped to Gretna to marry, they settled and started their family there. Her three children, Chloe, Croy and Leo, were her proudest achievement.

Moving back to Glasgow in 1993, she completed her PGCE. She was a natural teacher, and despite her contemptuous disdain for the often tedious demands of the syllabus, her students were always well prepared for exams. She inspired their respect not through instilling fear or hectoring, but through her laconic wit and softly-spoken lessons.

Her annual productions of Shakespeare - the other man in her life - were like her: colourful, insightful and clever.

After a life lived with verve and gusto, Teresa dealt with her diagnosis of cancer with determination and grace. Even in the worst moments she found humour, describing the affront of finding herself in "the cancer codger queue". After two years of illness, Teresa passed away on 23 June, 2011.

Submitted by the English department, Hyndland Secondary, Glasgow.

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