Education / Big cheers to ‘big Val’

Anderson High School S3 pupils have been learning about journalism in recent weeks and have interviewed retiring headteacher Valerie Nicolson ahead of the summer holidays. The piece below is by Ellie Leslie and Caitlin Anderson, with photography from Joe Walterson

Valerie Nicolson retires today. Photo: Joe Walterson (S3 pupil at AHS)

AFTER twenty and a half years as head teacher at the Anderson High School, Valerie Nicolson is retiring from her beloved job.

Ms Nicolson grew up in Lunnasting but moved to Edinburgh for University.

Afterwards, she started work at some different schools down south; Kirkcaldy High in Fife and West Calder High in West Lothian.

In 2003, she returned to Shetland after getting the job as AHS head teacher. Even then she knew that she would like to retire after 20 years.

At the front door, every morning, Ms Nicolson is always there, ready to greet us with “good morning folks”.

In an interview, she said that her favourite pastime at the school was “coming in early and watching [the] school come alive as staff and pupils arrive”.

Something we all associate with our head teacher is tannoys. They happen every day, through the speakers in every classroom (just so we don’t miss the important information) and they inform us of the day’s announcements, such as clubs happening during lunchtime and after school.


After doing some maths, we figured that Ms Nicolson has made roughly 4,100 tannoys over the years!

She says that the most memorable ones for her was the last ever tannoy in the old school, and the first one in the new building because it was “historically significant, emotional leaving the old school and exciting moving into the new one”.

Ms Nicolson must have given a lot of trouble to pupils during her time as head teacher, but she says that the funniest time was when she caught a pupil using the inside of his jacket as a sweet shop; selling the treats to his fellow students.

Ms Nicolson says that he had no license and the sweets were sweaty. How lovely.

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When she was small Val, she was apparently “well behaved”. Although any teacher would claim they were good as a child.

However, she did admit to being quite an annoying pupil as she always wanted to be right.

Ms Nicolson has some advice for the next AHS head teacher. He should “cherish the job” because it’s not a job many people have the opportunity to try.

Also, it’s a “very special role” in such a small community. Also, the head teacher office is nice, it’s quite big, with lots of windows.

Since it is the only job she ever remembers wanting, Ms Nicolson will certainly miss her job, and we’ll certainly miss her.

She was the very last head teacher in the old building at Lerwick Harbour, and the first in the new school at Clickimin – and she will be remembered for being an amazing head teacher.

Her favourite quote, “dö weel and persevere”, will be the school motto forever.

She will be a big miss to everyone in the school and we wish her a happy retirement.

By Ellie Leslie and Caitlin Anderson

S3 pupils at the Anderson High School

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