School’s Longest Serving Teacher Retiring…Almost

Mike Rigby

Mike Rigby

Scilly’s longest serving schoolteacher says he’s not retiring completely because he wants to continue “stretching” students abilities through outdoor trips and challenges.

Mike Rigby has spent most of his career on St Mary’s.

After completing post-graduate studies in Cambridge, he opted for teaching instead of working in the more lucrative clinical research field as a biochemist.

After a few months teaching ‘north of London’ he accepted a Biology and Rural Science teacher position in Scilly in 1980.

In December, Mike ended his classroom career as head of that department, but he’s remaining on staff on an ad hoc basis as the Duke Of Edinburgh Programme lead.

Mike will also manage the popular ‘Leading Edge’ challenges.

During the last decade that partnership with Penryn College has enabled pupils to explore the outdoors in the Dolomites, Pyrenees and Norway.

Mike intends spending some of the year on his own travels, but says technology will keep him in contact with the kids whenever he’s needed.

Mike first saw how the pupils gained “soft skills” on outdoor challenges when he accompanied Roger Williams on the school’s 1981 Dartmoor expedition.

And he’s seen how the youngsters grow as individuals when they are outside their ‘comfort zone’ and need to make decisions as a team.

Mike says that the feedback from the returning pupils has made his role very rewarding.

He says they tend to keep the destination for each year’s expedition a secret until the last minute. But wherever the youngsters go, “they love it.”

Mike’s teaching philosophy has been to stretch minds in the classroom too. Teachers should reflect on how successful they have been in delivering a concept, he says.

He’s aimed to make lessons exciting and interesting by “offering the unexpected.”

Many of his former secondary students will recall his science classes, when experiments such as setting the sink alight brought the lesson to life.

And Mike jokes that it was the use of a sink that helped him secure his job in Scilly. During the interview process, he was invited to dinner at head teacher John Osborne’s home where Mike offered to do the dishes.

He thinks that stood him in good stead when the winning candidate was announced.

Mike says he’s made the right career and location decision in life because “it’s all about people” and he’s proud to work in a strong community.

He’s also decided to end his 30 years service in the islands’ Fire Brigade at the same time as relinquishing his full-time teaching role, because he wants to spend more time travelling between his school trip assignments.