Tributes paid to 'inspirational' Kettering teacher

Sonia Sliwinski taught at Rockingham Road Girls School and Montagu School
Sonia Sliwinski taught at Rockingham Road Girls School and Montagu School

Tributes have been paid to a 'one of a kind' teacher whose caring nature touched thousands of pupils during a 30-year career.

Sonia Sliwinski, who worked at Rockingham Road Girls School and Montagu School in Kettering, died on August 15, shortly before her 90th birthday.

Mrs Sliwinski pictured with some of her pupils at Montagu School

Mrs Sliwinski pictured with some of her pupils at Montagu School

She began teaching in 1951 at the girls school and remained there until its closure in the 1970s, ending her time as acting head teacher.

She then spent four years at Montagu School before retiring, but continued to work as a supply teacher in schools across the area in the years that followed.

The popular art teacher married her husband John in 1963 after they met at a friend's house. Mr Sliwinski, who was Polish, was based in England during the war and had decided to stay in this country. The couple lived in Pennine Way, enjoying a long and happy marriage until Mr Sliwinski's death in 1992.

Mrs Sliwinski kept busy, even in her retirement, and was a committee member of Kettering District Arts Society. She also volunteered at Kettering General Hospital, where she used her love of art and crafts to help patients with mental health problems. She also knitted hats for premature babies.

Son Mark, 54, said he was overwhelmed by the number of people who remembered his mum when she was treated in hospital shortly before her death.

He said: "Mum just loved the contact with her pupils. She loved them and they loved her. She was someone who would help them believe in themselves and she would never give up on them. That was something she had a reputation for.

"She genuinely loved people and she valued everyone she met in some way, sometimes more than they valued themselves. My mum always said to me, as she did to her students, that you could do anything you wanted if you believed you could, and tried hard enough.

"One of the things that made my mum particularly special was her ability to laugh at herself and not take anything too seriously. She thought more or less everything was funny and was always laughing and smiling about all sorts of things."

Such was Mrs Sliwinski's consideration for others was that she even left notes to Mark on where to find things and what to do after she'd died.

He said: "My mum told me, on more than one occasion, that she has had a lovely life. The last time she said this was three or four weeks ago. Typical of my mum - trying to get me ready for the inevitable and making sure that everyone else is okay even if she wasn't."

The funeral for Mrs Sliwinski will be held at the the Edgar Newman Chapel at Kettering Crematorium on Friday (August 30) at 2pm.

Mark has requested that those attending refrain from wearing black, to reflect his mum's love of colour.

Many of those who were taught by Mrs Sliwinski have paid tribute to her on Mark's Facebook page:

"She was a wonderful teacher."

"I remember her well. Great art teacher and lovely, kind lady."

"Such an inspiration."

"Lovely lady. Loved art lessons with her at Rocco."

"Most wonderful art teacher, so friendly and clever, she inspired me in my love of art."

"A lovely lovely caring lady xx she really took me under her wing at Montagu School xx RIP Mrs Sliwinski."

"One of my favourite teachers."

"One of a kind."

"RIP Mrs Sliwinski you were a lovely teacher and an inspiration to many."

"Although it's almost 60 years since she taught me I still remember what a kind and passionate lady she was. A credit to her career."

"A kind person and a wonderful teacher."

"Such a lovely lady even though I haven't saw her for over 50 yrs I still remember her lovely calm and sweet nature."

"A very lovely lady and brought the best out in children."

"An absolutely amazing art teacher and such a wonderfully kind lady with a caring soul for all her students."

"I have often thought of Mrs Sliwinski over the years. She was our art teacher and form teacher at Rockingham Road Girls school about 53 years ago. I can honestly say she was the most memorable teacher I had, caring and inspirational."