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Hand-carved tribute to science teacher

Reporter: Karen Doherty
Date online: 04 July 2017

A BEAUTIFUL bench has been unveiled at Saddleworth School in memory of a much-loved former science teacher who "turned pupils into gold".

The hand-carved tribute to John Atack was designed and made by one of his former pupils after a Facebook appeal raised more than £2,000 in just a few days.

Mr Atack's wife Pam, his daughters Sue Mair and Christine Vucak, their husbands and two of his grandchildren were among more than 100 people who attended Saturday's event.

The bench is adorned with carved scientific equations including one for alchemy and the transmutation of lead into gold, which incorporates Mr Atack's initials.

Kathy Wander, who started the appeal on the Saddleworth School Friends group, said: "Not a science I know, but I think it is a fitting tribute to Mr Atack and represents his life and his carer.

"He took us leaden lumps and with his input and energy, turned us into gold."

She was overwhelmed with the response to the appeal, adding: "From the generosity everyone has displayed, he was clearly a much-loved, admired and respected teacher who had a valuable impact on our lives."

Mr Atack, taught at the school for nearly three decade before retiring 20 years ago. He died in May aged 85 and his widow described the bench as "beautiful".

She added: "It's overwhelming; we never expected anything like this at all. To us he was just a normal teacher doing a job he enjoyed.

"He had been retired a long time and we did not think anyone would remember him. It's just so nice to think he had this effect on people."

A shield was also presented to the school which will be awarded annually in memory of Mr Atack to the pupil who makes the most progress in science.

Mr Atack's daughter, Sue, said: "It's for the most improved pupil and that's what his passion was ­- to help pupils get the best from themselves.

Asked what he would have made of the memorials, she added: "He would be laughing his head off because he did not even go back for his leaving assembly ­- he just didn't like the fuss. I think he would be proud but he wouldn't show it!"

Associate head teacher Dave Watson said the bench would move to the new Saddleworth School when it is built.

"We said that when we eventually go into a new building we want something to take with us as a centerpiece, something that was iconic and represents what was great about the old Saddleworth School. I think we have just been given that," he explained "Sadly I never met Mr Atack but I have met him at a number of schools I have worked in: those people who are the backbone a school is built around, those people who are dedicated to the young people."

Simon Hodgson who made the bench added: "He was a bit of an alchemist. He would take the pupils who who were struggling and give them something other teachers didn't give them."

 

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