Tributes have been paid to two former teachers who were instrumental in turning their school into one of the most successful in the region.
Mike Elkin taught at Alsager School for 36 years and then spent 15 years as a governor. He was also the first ever head of year when the school turned comprehensive.
The Rotarian, who lived in Alsager and served as a lay reader at St Mary’s Church, died aged 83 on March 27. He had suffered a heart attack.
The school was still mourning Mike’s loss when former deputy head Keith Plant passed away last week. He had taught there for 34 years before taking early retirement.
Sixty-six-year-old Keith, who also lived in the town, was still pursuing his twin passions of photography and drama. He had recently been diagnosed with cancer.
Lindsay Purcell, chairman of governors, said: “They were two lovely fellas and talented to boot. They had a huge impact in different ways on Alsager School.
“I was a friend of both of them, as well as a colleague. We will all miss them.”
He recalled how Mike, who taught geography and maths, had a magic touch.
Lindsay added: “He had that great ability to bring out the best in young people. They did their best for Mike because nobody wanted to let him down. Everybody respected him.”
Great-grandfather Mike, who had a building named after him at the school, would still attend events there decades after retiring.
His daughter Jane West, aged 59, said: “I’m so proud of the number of comments that have been made about him. I knew he was popular and well-respected, but the response has been completely overwhelming.”
Mike was a well-known member of the community and helped with many local causes. He was also part of a mercy mission to Poland, where a team of volunteers took medical supplies to a hospital back in 1993.
Friend David Black, who was headteacher of Alsager School for many years, said: “He was an affable, even-tempered and kind man. He never had a bad word to say about anybody.
“He became an extended member of our family. We used to call him ‘Uncle Mike’. He had a twinkle in his eye.”
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David also paid tribute to his former deputy Keith, who spent his entire teaching career at Alsager.
“When I joined the school, Keith was head of the sixth form. Virtually on his own, he turned it into a sixth form for up to 250 students. It represented the very best of Alsager School,” he said.
“Keith was incredible. As a person, he was very intellectual, cultured and dramatic. He also had a very caring outlook and wanted the best for children from all backgrounds.”
Other colleagues also paid tribute to Keith, who taught English and drama, describing him as ‘enormously talented’.
He inspired many teenagers to continue studying English at university.
They included former Sentinel journalist Adam Blakeman. He recalled how Keith was so dedicated that he would respond to students’ queries at weekends and during holidays.
Posting on the school’s Facebook page, Adam added: “I bumped into him in summer last year at Alsager railway station and we had a good chat about school and his lessons.
“He boarded the train without his suitcase until I pointed this out to him! He was on his way to France and was loving his retirement.”
Keith directed and wrote plays for Alsager Community Theatre. In recent years, one of his plays – about cricketer Sidney Barnes – was even performed at Old Trafford.