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News > Catch up : Concord Staff > Goodbye to Dr Beech

Goodbye to Dr Beech

In the Concord Alumni department we often get asked by former students ‘Is Dr Beech still at Concord? Well, after almost 27 years, the answer will soon, sadly, be no.
Dr Beech and an unusual passenger
Dr Beech and an unusual passenger

Stuart Beech joined Concord as a Chemistry teacher in 1997 and is about to take early retirement, meaning he has spent most of his life working at Concord! This was brought into sharp focus earlier this year when he jokingly asked his 6.2 class if he had taught any of their parents, when Brandon spoke up and said he had taught his mum, Lynne. It’s time, decided Dr Beech, to retire.

We recently met up with Dr Beech to share some memories of Concord and we weren’t disappointed. Read on for some entertaining stories from the last 27 years…

Q) What made you decide on a career in teaching?

“I’d studied biochemistry at Southampton then decided to do a PhD. I rang round several universities just asking if any of them had opportunities available. It looked like there were none available, until I got a phone call out of the blue from the University of Edinburgh who had heard on the grapevine from the University of Bath that I was looking. I travelled up to Edinburgh twice that week, one for a job interview with a brewery as a quality controller (as a chemist, not a taster) and one for the University which I accepted.

After my PhD I did some post-doctoral research on thyroid hormones in the USA. I soon decided, with all the uncertainty about finding funding every 2 years and as I had, by then, met my future wife, that it was time to come back and look for a more permanent job. It was my dad who first suggested becoming a teacher.”

Q) If you hadn’t been a teacher what would you have liked to have done?

“I once went for an interview as a fighter pilot, but my vision wasn’t good enough and the interviewer ‘shot me down in flames’ (lol). I also thought about being a pathologist.”

Q) What brought you to Concord College?

“After doing my PGCE teaching qualification at Keele University (where I met Mark Wilde, who also later became a Concord teacher) my first job was at a local high school and when I saw the job at Concord I applied.

I was interviewed by Principal, Tony Morris and Tony Foster. I remember visiting Mr and Mrs Morris at the Principal’s House with my wife after I’d been appointed and being asked if it was alright if they called me ‘Stuart’ . At first, I thought he was asking if the students could call me by my first name! Tony Morris offered to put us up in the college guest flat, as Wolverhampton was so far away, to help with my long daily commute. We didn’t take him up on the offer, but thought it was kind.  Since then I have racked up approximately 286,000 miles (460,500 Km), commuting to and from Concord. That’s to the moon and ¼ of the way back again!

How many Concord students can fit in Dr Beech's car?

Q) What was the science department like in 1997?

“It was a lot smaller. We had three labs in what is now the Art Department buildng, one for each of the science subjects and three chemistry teachers; Mrs Parry, Mr Wadlow (who sadly died in an accident a few years later and was replaced by Dr Braybrook) and me. It was a small close-knit group.

Q) Before Health & Safety rules became more stringent, over your 27 years in our Chemistry Department did any of your lab experiments ever go wrong?

“We handle our experiments with a lot of care, and nothing has gone wrong, but one of the reasons students enjoy chemistry is because these experiments are exciting to watch. Occasionally one of my demonstrations has startled students or staff from other departments, and the effects can be dramatic.

For example, I thought the fire alarms in the new Science Block were sheat detectors not smoke detectors. When conducting an experiment underneath one recently the students saw the gases rising up towards the ceiling and I confidently said; ‘Don’t worry it’s a heat detector not smoke….’ my last word was drowned out by the sound of the alarms going off and the building was evacuated.

Students enjoyed classes when we made hydrogen rockets out of fizzy drink bottles. If you work out the right combination of gases, you can make your rocket fly 15-20 metres into the air. One Summer School many years ago I decided to show students how you could make it go even further using pure oxygen rather than air. We took the ‘rocket’ to the launch pad, stood well back and lit it. The bottom of the bottle blew off causing an enormous bang that could be heard across campus. The Maintenance team rang down wanting to know what was going on, Mandy Gilbert thought it was really funny, but my ears were ringing for some time afterwards.

Students do think flames are fun. I remember lighting bubbles of propane gas held in my hand but the mixture had dripped round the back, singing the hairs on the back of my hand. You could smell them burning as the students all said; ‘Do it again, Sir!’ I’m pretty sure one of our alumni has it on video somewhere?"

Q) Please share some of your favourite memories from outside the science labs.

"There are lots, but the ones that tend to stick in your mind are when something has gone wrong!

  • I used to play squash with Mr Chadwick. During one game Mr Chadwick hit the ball and it hit me in the eye. When I went to prep that night and my lessons the next day with a huge black eye all the students wanted to know what had happened.  I told them Mr Chadwick had hit me for no apparent reason, which was surprising as he seems such a nice guy. 
  • When I was working on Summer School (about 20 years ago, shortly after Dr Braybrook had joined us) I took a group of students to Cosford Aerospace Museum. They all bought water pistols in the gift shop and decided to play with them in the museum picnic area. We were told off by the museum staff, so quickly made an exit to Telford shopping centre as we had some time to spare. I forgot the minibus had a roof rack and drove under a car park barrier, getting stuck underneath. Dr Braybrook has never let me forget it.
  • I drive to campus from Wolverhampton every day and I’ve driven through many floods and heavy snowfalls to get here, but one particular time really stands out. It had been snowing heavily and my route was blocked, so I’d had to reverse the car along narrow lanes for ½ mile then got stuck in a snowdrift with my wheels spinning. I had to be pulled out by a 4x4 vehicle, and so many roads were shut my usual 45 minute drive took 3 hours.
  • On another afternoon, after it had been snowing heavily on campus, I got back to my car and discovered someone had built a snowman on the roof! I tentatively drove off with him still sitting on top. Paul Leighton has a photo of it, though I never found out who had done it!
  • After these funny stories of mishaps, there is one happy memory that stands out. Other sorts of ‘chemistry’ can happen in our labs, I found this out when I heard students Christine and Keefe had met and later got married after meeting in my lessons 😊
  • ...and finally, I remember arriving to a lesson in a classroom to find a condom in a packet on the teacher’s desk.  Once all the students had finished arriving, I thanked them for the kind gift but did point out that it is more traditional to give the teacher an apple!  I can only assume that the registration class had left it behind after a PHSE lesson.

Q) What are your future plans for your retirement?

"I will be helping to care for my youngest daughter Adeline, who is 22 years old. Adeline has a rare mutation of a gene (DLG4 on the 17th Chromosome) which is the likely cause of her severe learning difficulties, autism, sleep disorder, epilepsy, dyspraxia, and communication difficulties (she is non-verbal).

This collection of conditions has now been named ‘Shine Syndrome’ and I will be raising money for The Shine Syndrome Foundation charity. If you would like to know more, please take a look at their website (click HERE to see link) which has a wealth of information about Shine Syndrome and supports research into the mutation of the DLG4 gene."

 

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