Ann Maguire: Leeds teacher was ‘rock’ of her family

Ann Maguire.
Ann Maguire.
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Ann Maguire has been remembered as an inspirational teacher to generations of children and the “rock” at the centre of her close family.

Her violent death in April was a national event - the senseless killing of someone who seemed to stand for all that is good about teachers and the teaching profession.

But it was also a deeply personal tragedy for her family who have seemed bemused at times by the massive public focus on their mother’s murder at a time of intense, private grief.

Colleagues have said she would have been uncomfortable being held up as a paragon and would have winced at the thought of the spotlight that has been shone on her since her death.

Mrs Maguire, 61, had taught at Corpus Christi Catholic College, in Leeds, for more than 40 years and was due to retire in September.

She taught Spanish and RE and was regarded as the “mother of the school”, its “heartbeat”.

One colleague said: “If you cut Ann Maguire in half you would see ‘Corpus Christi’ running through her.”

For the past decade she had been responsible for the children in their GSCE year and the consistent sentiment among the hundreds of tributes that have been made to her was that she never gave up on children, even if they had given up on themselves.

Mrs Maguire believed passionately in cultivating aspiration.

At her memorial service in September, her daughter Kerry told crowds gathered outside: “One of Ann’s life principles as a teacher was ‘you can never put a limit on a child’s potential’.’’

At the same service a film was shown in which pupils were asked to use one word to describe Mrs Maguire. They said she was ‘’perfect’’, ‘’passionate’’, ‘’fantastic’’, ‘’amazing’’ and ‘’warm’’.

Pupils have talked about her love of music - cajoling youngsters, especially reluctant boys, into the school choir she ran for years - and her love of playing the guitar, even in Spanish lessons.

Originally from Wigan, in Greater Manchester, Mrs Maguire - then Miss Connor - arrived at Corpus Christi in 1973 as a student doing her teacher training.

Childhood friends who remembered her from St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Primary School in the Scholes area of Wigan have said that she always wanted to be a teacher.

Last year, four decades on, the school came together to celebrate Mrs Maguire’s 40 years of service at the school.

To mark the occasion, The Ann Maguire Award was set up to recognise the Year 11 pupil who has shown the most “dedication, industry and progress” at the school.

“I’ve never wanted to leave here,” she told the school magazine following the event.

“Corpus children are very special to me.

“They are our finest ambassadors; hard-working, friendly, fun to be with and genuinely pleasant, polite young people.”

And she said: “You have to love children and be in tune with their individual needs.

“Children are fascinating.

“Every child is different and you have to adapt your approach to each one.

“I’ve always tried to be myself and make a connection with each child - tuning in with their needs and encouraging them to aspire.”

Ann Connor married Maths teacher Don Maguire 37 years ago.

Mr Maguire, 62, later left teaching and started a landscape gardening business.

He said he thought his wife’s natural mothering qualities that made her such a talented teacher.

Mr Maguire spoke about his memories of his wife in a BBC interview with their daughters Kerry and Emma, and nephews Andrew and Daniel Poole.

Professional dancer Emma has been a member of the Royal Ballet since 2002 and osteopath Kerry also trained as a ballerina.

Mrs Maguire brought up Daniel and Andrew as her own sons after her sister Eileen’s death from cancer in 1986, aged 35.

‘’She was very special,” Mr Maguire said. “She was the mainstay of our family.

“She was the centre of our family. If she had a choice she would be with us here and now and she would love the situation where we’re all together.

‘’Ann was a very loving, dedicated wife and a natural mother and it was her natural mothering qualities, I think, that made Ann such a wonderful teacher.’’

Kerry added: ‘’My mum was always there for us, she stood by us, she was our rock, she provided support and kindness and love in whatever we did. She was always by our side.’’

Andrew said: ‘’The over-riding thing that we feel is that she’s irreplaceable. She’s irreplaceable as a wife, as a mother, as a sister, as an auntie or as a grandmother. We’ve all lost that person so there’s a definite emptiness that we’ve been left with.’’

The family’s tributes were echoed by thousands of messages from around the world, many pinned to the mountains of flowers which were placed outside Corpus Christi and stretched for 100 metres from the school gates to the church next door.

Hundreds of people came to see the floral tributes and talk about their memories of Mrs Maguire.

Mike Woods, who was head of Corpus Christi between 1998 and 2012, said: “She was truly a wonderful person.”

These sentiments were repeated when around 1,200 people packed into Leeds Town Hall for Mrs Maguire’s memorial service in September, while another 500 gathered in front of big screens outside.

Reverend Monsignor John Wilson told the service: ‘’Ann loved teaching. It was her dream as a very young child, her ambition as a teenager, a fulfilling reality for 40 years.’’

He continued: ‘’Ann was a priceless gift, a treasure for ever in our hearts for eternity. She believed in the innate goodness of children and young people. Ann rightly lived up to the accolade of mother of the school.’’

The Ann Maguire Arts Education Fund has been set up in her memory to provide bursaries and funding for the enhancement and personal development of young people through music, drama, language and dance.

Donations can be made at www.justgiving.com/ann-maguire.

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