It’s not often we get the chance to celebrate such a milestone, so nothing gave us more pleasure than congratulating Mr Jerome Watson for reaching his 100th term of teaching at Bedford School. We were delighted to surprise him with balloons, chocolates and champagne during Period 2 of IB maths!
Jerome joined Bedford School in September 1982, having spent the first few years of his teaching career at Aldenham School. The then Head Master of Bedford School, C.I.M Jones, invited Jerome to take up the post of mathematics teacher and hockey coach, as part of the school’s strategy to recruit high-level hockey players into the school. At that time, Jerome played hockey to a world-class standard; playing for England at every level and winning a bronze medal in the 1978 European Nations Cup which, Jerome fondly reflects was his proudest moment. He was also honoured to gain his Blue at Oxford (where he studied mathematics), playing in the European Club Championship with the Hounslow Club as well as representing British Universities. Jerome was a fine player; technically skilful with an aggressive edge. In those years he was one of England’s most feared forwards.
However, in Jerome’s first term at Bedford School, his health took a serious turn for the worse when he was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer. At this time the treatment for this type of cancer was harsh, and Jerome underwent heavy abdominal surgery followed by deep radiotherapy. This was a tough time for Jerome, but his abiding memory of that time was the unwavering support and community spirit from the staff and boys at Bedford School. “It’s such a unique quality here at Bedford and quite unlike any other school”, Jerome told us.
Jerome was not only a significant appointment to the school on the grounds of his hockey accomplishments but his mathematical abilities were also quite exceptional (a gift he shares with his father, who, as a mere teenager, was selected to work as a codebreaker at Bletchley Park to help break into World War II Enigma messages). As well as being the backbone of further maths, mechanics and the more congenial pure maths, Jerome also wrote questions for the British Mathematical Olympiad and the problem pages of the ‘Mathematical Gazette’. His love of the subject is so, that he goes the extra mile to ensure his pupils have a real understanding of maths, rather than just be able to follow the methods.
Pupils will also remember Jerome for his creative side, which manifested itself through the lens of the camera. In pre-digital dark room days, Jerome ran the school’s Photographic Club. Jerome’s passion for the people and wildlife of Africa, Iceland, and more latterly Ethiopia were often the subject of his wonderful photographs, many of which have adorned front covers of The Ousel. For 25 years, he lectured to the Sixth Form on the wildlife of the Rift Valley and its photography, with the hope of promoting an interest in the need for conservation. The lecture was always highly rated by the boys.
Jerome has seen many policy and procedure changes to the teaching profession through the years but he is categorically frank in his views that the positivity, ethos and atmosphere within the school has not changed or faltered in the 35 years that he has had the pleasure of being here. “The sense of camaraderie and community across the school is what makes Bedford School so special”, he says with sincerity and seriousness.
This summer term marks the end of Jerome’s teaching career (having originally retired from teaching in 2015). However, he intends to stay on at the school to continue coaching hockey and in his capacity as an exams officer.
When we asked him what his one piece of advice to any boy leaving Bedford School would be, his answer was simple: “Whatever you go on to do, enjoy it!”