Virginia Hunt 1957-2009
Every school staffroom should have someone like Virginia Hunt: funny, always laughing, always willing to help others, and keen to enjoy the rich tapestry of life you find in the classroom.
A teacher by training, but later a TES journalist, Hunt's laugh was infectious and will be remembered by everyone who knew her. She never failed to turn up to a party with a gaggle of friends, either from the schools she worked in, or from her own school days.
Her career began in a local authority housing department, followed by a move to the newsrooms of the BBC.
On the arrival of her first child, Tomas, she enrolled at Goldsmiths College, University of London, to train as an early-years teacher. It proved to be a vocation: her devotion to her two sons (Lukas was born three years later) was extended to every child who passed through her classroom.
After working for many years at primary schools in the south London boroughs of Southwark and Lewisham, she became ill with breast cancer. Characteristically, she refused to let it run her life and carried on as normal until her illness eventually forced her to leave the classroom.
During the first bout of cancer, she worked as a peripatetic teacher of English as an additional language at John Stainer Community Primary in Lewisham. She also began to write for The TES. This, she discovered, was her second vocation.
In October 2005, she joined The TES full-time as community editor for the newspaper's website. She helped to moderate online discussion forums and investigate ways to develop them further. Hunt was determined to carry on supporting the TES online community throughout her illness. She was always firm but fair with website users and they, in turn, appreciated her straightforward manner.
Her background in teaching proved extremely valuable. Her website colleagues would regularly turn to her for advice about what really goes on in schools, helping to ensure that they met the needs of teachers. If Hunt did not know an answer to a question, she always had a host of teacher friends to call on for extra opinions.
"Virginia was like a one-woman focus group; she always had her finger on the pulse of what was really going on in the staffroom," said Gail Robinson, the website's community producer.
Hunt's high-rise flat in south London was never quiet: she and her sons thrived alongside piles of books (including many treasured children's titles), a Siamese cat who always seemed to be on heat, a pile of fashion magazines that would do a surgery waiting-room proud, the occasional class hamster and a stack of ironing, which she always, somehow, found time to do.
Theatre was another great love, and Hunt was a regular at venues across the capital until very recently. She was extremely proud when Tomas spent several seasons acting in The Lion King in London's West End and, more recently, when Lukas enrolled in ballet school in Hertfordshire.
Despite her own difficulties, Hunt was always ready to listen to colleagues' personal problems and to offer a smile and welcome words of advice. She would rarely turn down a party invitation, particularly if champagne was being served.
From the end of November, when no further treatment was deemed appropriate, Hunt focused on preparing for Christmas with her family. She queued for three hours for theatre tickets and, despite needing two people to help her get ready, the two evenings of theatre she enjoyed on the trot were, she said, "nights of joy".
Determined to finish her time at home, the flat was prepared for guests and her room turned into what Hunt described as a "boudoir", with candles and incense.
Hunt texted and phoned, keeping in touch until the end. At her funeral, music ranging from rapper Dizzee Rascal to Rod Stewart was played. Eclectic, spirited and joyful, it was typical Hunt.
Virginia Hunt died on January 5, aged 51. She leaves behind her two sons, Tomas, 18, and Lukas, 14.