Farewell to Mrs Porter
|After over 20 years at St Gabriel’s Mrs Helen Porter, Teacher of Biology, will be hanging up her lab coat at the end of term. Dedicated teacher and tutor, stick insect keeper and swiveller of the Big Blue Biology Chair, Mrs Porter has carved out a huge place in the affections of St Gabriel’s students and staff past and present. Mrs Porter joined St Gabriel's in 1998 having taught in a variety of large comprehensive schools and immediately threw herself into school life.|
Dr Tebbs remembers Mrs Porter organising a series of highly successful Year 7 trips to West End theatres, noting her commitment to students’ enjoyment and wellbeing, while others recall the many roles she played in the not-to-be-missed Christmas pantomimes (including the back end of a crocodile in Peter Pan!). Pastoral care has always been at the heart of Mrs Porter’s teaching career and during her time here she has carefully overseen the smooth transition to Senior School of many Year 7 pupils, shepherding them through their first days, first form assemblies and first trips to Calshot with her customary enthusiasm and pragmatism.
Girls in Mrs Porter’s Biology classes quickly realised that they were in the very capable hands of an expert with a real love of the subject. Mrs Porter often made use of our beautiful grounds in her ecology lessons and we doubt that there is a plant growing at St Gabriel’s that has not been lassoed by her quadrat, counted and identified at some point or other! In addition to the academic rigour of her lessons, Mrs Porter’s classes often had an element of fun, with appreciative laughter frequently heard coming from the Biology lab. Her Sixth Form classes have enjoyed practicals to the accompaniment of Abba songs and she instigated the Science Song Sing Off a number of years ago that has become a much-anticipated end of year event for our Year 11. Another contribution to A level Biology were the field trips Mrs Porter organised, including one rather eventful one to Nettlecombe when she broke a tooth and had to have emergency dental treatment.
Parents and students may not realise how big a role Mrs Porter has played in teaching unions both locally and nationally. She has supported and promoted the work of the NEU (formerly the ATL) acting as the school representative for many years. She has also undertaken a variety of senior national roles within these organisations, including the executive member for Berkshire, equalities officer for the ATL and the executive member for independent schools. At school we have all benefited from the expertise and insight her work has afforded her. Mrs Porter is passionate about equality and this year was delighted to help establish St Gabriel’s latest extra-curricular activity, Diversity Club. In 2018, her interest in equality led her to take up a Walter Hines Page scholarship from the English-Speaking Union enabling her to visit schools in the twin cities of Minneapolis and St Paul to research oracy in restorative practice. Her subsequent assembly to St Gabriel’s girls, where she painted a vivid picture of her experiences and observations of the US school system, was memorable.
Mrs Porter’s warm, professional and unflappable style will be greatly missed by her students. Her colleagues will miss her support and her gift for friendship. We all wish her a very happy retirement and look forward to hearing from her as she indulges her love of travel unencumbered by the constraints of school terms.