A Shropshire man believed to be the longest-serving teacher in the history of his school is retiring after 42 years of “dedicated and inspirational” science teaching.
Keith Bell, 65, has been a science teacher at Prestfelde School in Shrewsbury since February 1975, a post he was offered after a spell as a temporary teacher there the previous year.
Mr Bell, who lives in Bayston Hill, is now looking forward to his well-earned retirement and says he will have more time to devote to his passions of botany and metal detecting. He is also in the process of writing a book.
Fiona Orchard, Head of Prestfelde, said that Mr Bell had been a stalwart supporter of the school over five decades and would be sadly missed by staff and pupils alike.
“We will always be grateful for the hundreds of pupils he taught over the years, helping very many of them achieve success in scholarship and Common Entrance examinations,” Mrs Orchard said.
“We will remember Mr Bell each and every day, not least because one of the school’s new laboratories is named in his honour. He was a dedicated and inspirational teacher and we will miss him.”
Mr Bell has seen many changes during his time at the school and also recalls an impressive list of Old Prestfeldians he has enjoyed teaching over the years.
He said: “I taught Tim Martin, now a BBC natural history programme producer, James Russell, a dental surgeon on the Channel 4 series Embarrassing Bodies, and Craig de Weymarn, who went on to be physio to the England cricket team.
“I also taught Marc Edwards, who currently works as a BBC sports presenter and was the announcer at the London 2012 Olympics opening and closing ceremonies, and Jonty Heaversedge, a doctor who has also appeared on the BBC advising on medical issues.”
Mr Bell was taken on at Prestfelde purely as a temporary measure until a permanent teacher could be appointed – and he has been there ever since.
“Little did I realise that I was going to be that teacher, and I became the permanent Head of Sciences in the February of 1975,” he added.
“I will miss the school immensely, especially the children and the wonderful family atmosphere of the place, but am looking forward to having more time to spend on botany and getting out into the fields more often with my metal detector. I also have the little matter of my book to finish.
“The greatest difference at Prestfelde today compared to my early years is the impressive facilities. The school now boasts a library and IT suite, a gym, DT and art centre, dedicated Music School and tennis courts – none of which existed when I started.
“Another difference today is the speed of information-sharing, with the ever growing
use of the internet and IT, together with the use of mobile phones, regular parents’ consultations and the multitude of health and safety regulations – all very important
in today’s modern world, but things that would have astounded or amused my old colleagues.
“The old staff common room had one great advantage as I recall, you could see the headmaster coming and have time to make your escape if you felt the need.”
Mr Bell said back in the day each boarding house had a TV – black and white – and he also remembers the school getting its first computer, a Sinclair ZX81, which he said was a temperamental piece of equipment and no more were ever bought.
“Today’s staff, teaching and non-teaching are a wonderful lot,” he said. “Some of them poke fun at me mercilessly, but I get along with everyone and will miss them all.”
He said that a great strength of the common room during his whole career at Prestfelde was the camaraderie and sense of family amongst the staff.
He added: “It’s been a wonderful place to work”.