A profoundly deaf woman who has spent 30 years teaching at the school she attended as a child has said an emotional goodbye to staff and pupils.
Linda Vessey, 64, has retired after spending more than half her life at Royal School for the Deaf Derby as both a pupil and a member of staff.
Her years as a pupil were spent at the school’s original building on Friar Gate which was eventually closed down and demolished two years after Linda left in 1970, aged 15.
She started working at the school’s new site in Ashbourne Road in 1985 where she was appointed as the very first deaf education assistant.
Linda said: “I have seen a lot of changes in the way deaf children are educated over the years and all for the better. When I was at school none of the teachers were deaf and I really didn’t learn a lot.
“We were just encouraged to copy down off the blackboard and most of the time I didn’t understand. We also learned skills like sewing and cookery, while the boys did woodwork and metalwork.
“Today our children study science, geography, IT, history, basically the same curriculum that mainstream pupils follow.
“When I started teaching at the school there still weren’t many deaf role models for the students and I think that is so important. Today the school staff are half deaf and half hearing but when I started it was almost impossible to communicate with other members of staff.
“I’d sit in meetings without an interpreter and I would struggle to get access to information – this would never happen today. Things have definitely improved for the better.”
On her last day, staff and children at the school staged a special assembly for Linda where she played a Generation Game-style conveyor belt contest – having to recall all her leaving presents, including the obligatory cuddly toy.
Her husband, two sons and four grandchildren were also special guests at the assembly, where the school’s primary children signed a leaving song for her.
Head teacher Helen Shepherd said: “I started at this school 28 years ago and Linda was already here back then. As a new member of staff, I vividly remember how welcoming she was and she taught me an awful lot.
“Linda was quite a trailblazer, because 30 years ago the school didn’t really employ deaf people. Today we realise just how important it is to provide deaf role models and show our pupils that being deaf is not a barrier to success.
“Linda has inspired generations of deaf children who will be as grateful as I am for her unstinting devotion to the school. We wish her every happiness in retirement.”
Linda intends to spend her new-found spare time travelling and already has holidays to Italy, Norway and Prague lined up for the rest of the year.
Chair of governors, Janet Hall, said: “On behalf of the board of governors I would like to wish Linda a very happy retirement; I hope she will visit lots of lovely places and do lots of lovely things.
“Linda has been a very hardworking member of the team and she will be greatly missed by everyone at the school.”
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