Soham Grammarians - Mr JR O'Toole BA (Cantab) English 1963-66

Soham Grammarian Spring 1964

The beginning of the School Year brought five new members of staff to the School. Mr CA Royal-Dawson and Mr JR O'Toole have joined the English staff, and are at present jointly responsible for the Library; Mr VN McElderry and Mr JB Rider are teaching Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics; and Mr WV Ellis is in charge of the Gymnasium.

Soham Grammarian Summer 1966

It is perhaps a sign of the educational times that three of the departing staff are moving into the comprehensive sector: Mr Hemmings, after eight years as Head of English, goes to Ifield School, Crawley; Mr Ellis moves to Rossington Comprehensive School, Doncaster; and Mr O'Toole moves to Hylton Red House School, Sunderland.

Readers of the Grammarian will not need to be reminded of the many and varied contributions of these masters to the English and sporting activities of the school.

from the 1965 School photo

5 Nov 2007 John O'Toole: [on being traced by the editor] I looked - and was - young and callow then!

I have long been out of touch with Soham colleagues, friends, and particularly the really lovely students who taught me so much about teaching, that I've not forgotten, and as you can tell, made use of. I know that like most first-year out teachers, I learned much more from my students and colleagues than I delivered (and still do, I think).

I do remember spending three very happy and for me profitable years at Soham and getting a real affection for the town and district. We revisited it on a recent trip to the UK with my in-laws, and I was pleased to see it looking prosperous, and still friendly, with lots I still remembered, including the school itself largely unchanged, though of course I was saddened that many people know of the town only because of recent notoriety - and saddened that the Maid's Head at Wicken is no longer as it was!

The students taught me much, and so did most of my colleagues - Gordon Hemmings in particular was a wonderful mentor. I remember with great pleasure taking some students camping at Stratford to see the RSC for a couple of years.

from the University of Melbourne website

And with equal pleasure being an English teacher with a high tolerance for both experiments and noise ... And with less pleasure standing many times out in the fog at the railway crossing counting in the cross-country kids, when I wanted to be coaching tennis or hockey - two sports that RAT totally despised.

Soham gave me a great foundation for the next decade spent teaching in the North East, where I discovered drama education bigtime, and then got lured out to Brisbane by the prospect of trying to share what I'd learned with teacher-education students. Here I stuck, though I'm lucky still to have lots of contact with the British drama education community, which bring me quite often to England. I'll certainly keep my eyes on the website.

For more information on Professor John O'Toole:
Australia’s first Chair of Arts Education 2005
Melbourne Graduate School of Education: Staff Profiles: Professor John O'Toole: Teaching Shakespeare and other complex texts: Postgraduate Certificate in the Teaching of Shakespeare:
University of Melbourne: Faculty of Education: Professor John O'Toole: Chair of Arts Education: Cluster Leader of Artistic and Creative Education: Profile

For references on the SG website please make use of the Search page

If you can add memories of Mr John Robert O'Toole or provide other photos of him, please contact the editor.
page last updated 7 Nov 2007