When Rae Walker, head teacher of Fair Isle Primary in Kirkcaldy, first began teaching 36 years ago she had no intention of taking the lead role.
But a chance spell as acting assistant head while at Methilhill, initially supposed to be for six weeks and ending up 18 months, gave her a taste for management, and she went on to become head teacher at Fair Isle for 15 years.
Rae, who turns 57 today, will take early retirement at the end of term, after deciding the impending changes in teaching are not in her future plans.
“It’s not that I am against change – far from it – but I can’t see how I could take the school forward with some of the things being proposed,” she explained.
“I love Fair Isle and have done from the minute I came here. It’s like one big family and although there have been challenges along the way, I have always been supported by the staff and parents of the children who come here.”
And not least of those challenges in her first year in charge of Fair Isle was planning for the decant of the school between Capshard and Kirkcaldy North Primaries to allow for a new school to be built.
What was supposed to take a year ended up lasting two years and four months due to “contractual challenges,” causing her and her staff a lot of headaches.
However, as soon as they got back into their beautiful new school in November 2006 things began looking up, and since then it has gone from strength to strength, securing a Big Lottery grant to establish its joint school/community project ‘Opportunities for All’ in 2007, with a second in 2013.
Rae began her teaching career in April 1982 at Lumphinans Primary before moving to Valley Primary in 1983, where she was for five years. From there she moved to Methilhill for nine years before a brief spell at Fair Isle as acting assistant for early years.
She went to Kennoway as assistant head, with a brief spell at Kinglassie as acting head, before taking up her dream job as head at Fair Isle in 2003.
“I had no intention of going into management because I loved being in the class with the kids, and while at Methilhill I became a senior teacher with more responsibility, still based in the classroom, which I loved. After the spell as acting depute I realised I had some leadership skill and was encouraged to apply.”
One of the highlights of her career came in 2013 when, after a trip down south to see the principles behind ‘the leader in me’ teaching programme from the USA, Fair Isle decided to adopt the scheme.
“This proved a major turning point for the school and has brought us real success in all areas of the curriculum,” said Rae.
“I am really going to miss the school, but I intend to stay in touch in a voluntary capacity and I have lots of other plans I need time to spend on.”