Mrs Unwin retires

In May 2020, Eileen Unwin announced that she would retire at the end of term after 30 years at Aberlady Primary School. Here she looks back on her time at the school and sends a message to her current and former pupils.

Mrs Unwin in 2013 with her P1 class, the current P7 leavers (except Ben, and with Cameron M and Cormac).

I STARTED WORKING part time at Aberlady Primary School in December 1989, returning to teaching after a gap of five years. By then our daughter had started Primary 2 and our son was in nursery school. A part-time post seemed the perfect opportunity for me to combine teaching with caring for our young family.

I graduated from Falkirk’s Callendar Park College of Education (which has long since disappeared) in 1977 and immediately began my teaching career in Musselburgh at the Burgh School.

Child-centred, play-based

With invaluable guidance from colleagues, I began to develop my skills as a class teacher; however, the most influential person in my professional career was, without doubt, Dorothy Hermiston, the Infant Mistress, who took up the post at the Burgh not long after I arrived. She trained me in the Froebel approach and this child-centred, play-based method of teaching continues to be very much regarded as good practice in early years education today.

Dorothy Hermiston became the headmistress at Aberlady in 1989 and it was then that I successfully applied for the position of relief teacher to cover her two non-teaching days in Primary 1. Working alongside someone who shared the same philosophy for teaching as me was very rewarding and I was grateful to be able to continue my professional development under her wing.

Three classrooms

The school in 1989 was a bit different from today. There were only three classrooms with glass panels separating them – and no extensions, of course. The nursery at that time was situated in my current classroom, which was the original dining room.

Apart from that, school life was very similar to today, with the same traditional yearly events: the autumn fair, the nativity performance in the church, the gala, sports day and the end of year leavers’ assembly in the church. There was no P7 show or camp at that time, though.

Mrs Unwin with her current P1s (except Ayla) in the autumn of 2019.

‘Family and belonging’

While teaching two days a week at Aberlady, I began to do some supply teaching on my available days and this gave me the opportunity to work in other schools with a variety of year groups. However, I already knew that the Early Years stage was where my calling was. I also knew that, having taught in a big school initially, the small village school setting was where I felt the greatest sense of family and belonging.

So I was delighted when my next job application was successful and I was appointed full-time class teacher at Aberlady in 1992. The school continues to this day to have that strong sense of community.

I can honestly say there has never been a morning when I haven’t driven into the car park and appreciated my good fortune to be working there. It has been like a second home to me in so many ways.

Mrs Unwin’s message to her former pupils

To my former pupils, I would like to say: it has been a genuine privilege for me to be involved in that very important milestone in your lives, starting school. I have many wonderful memories to take away with me. I believe a teacher is like a gardener and it has been a joy to help nurture your development and watch you grow and succeed. I wish you all a future filled with happiness xxx

Mrs Unwin’s message to her current P1s

To my current pupils I would like to say: you are my superheroes, my special class of 2020! When I made the big decision in January to retire in June, never did I imagine that we would be spending our last term separated and doing home learning! That was not in my plan!

However, something amazing has happened because of the lockdown. You have shown how resilient you can be. You have kept going and tried your best, and despite us being apart, we have all worked together like a big… machine! I am so very proud of each and every one of you. Love from Mrs Unwin xxx