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Farewell to Doris

At the end of this term, we say goodbye to one of our longest serving teachers, Doris Hugh.

Mrs Hugh has taught French for 28 years and held Senior School leadership positions at South Hampstead. Doris joined in 1994 as Head of Modern Languages, having previously taught French and Spanish at Habs Girls for 3 years and Habs Boys for 17 years. She went on to become South Hampstead’s Head of Sixth Form and was a key part of the school’s Senior Leadership team for 12 years, from 1997 to 2009. As a teacher, Doris has inspired countless students learning French both here and at Habs and supported many more applying for university. As a colleague, she is equally rigorous and inspiring, and South Hampstead owes much to her energy, strategic vision, model of expertise and first-rate teaching.

Doris commented: “Teaching is a unique job. As I look back on 48 years of working in schools, I am grateful that I’ve been able to influence young people’s choices and to touch their lives, however minimally. It’s a wonderful feeling to encourage a student to apply for a university course they may not have considered and see them get in! I really enjoy meeting alumnae years later and seeing what they have become, knowing I’ve been a small part of their success.”

As Head of Modern Languages, Doris worked tirelessly to ensure there was one trip per language per year group, so that students could improve their language skills. She has many a tale to tell about accompanying students on language trips to Model United Nations conferences in Alden-Beisen in Belgium and to Paris for the work experience programme. “It’s not enough to learn a language in the classroom… When students put their language skills into practice, they improve dramatically, and it’s so rewarding to watch their progress during the course of the trip.”

The Lower Sixth work experience trip to Paris was established by Doris and has been running since her first year at South Hampstead. Not only would Doris set up placements tailored to individual students’ interests, but she would also arrange an array of cultural activities after work, including visits to the Musée d’Orsay, plays at the Comédie Française, and dinner in le Marais. Doris would go above and beyond to ensure the girls were happy on the trip, and comfortable staying with their exchange partner. She recalls one year when she had to search every chemist in the Champs-Elysée for a girl whose jaw had locked, eventually tracking her down in a hospital where she was being treated.  There was also the time at the Eurostar terminal when, after checking that all girls had their passport, Doris was horrified to discover she had left her own at home! She had to wait for the next train while her husband hand-delivered the passport, finally arriving sheepishly in Brussels, where she was greeted with very loud cheers by the girls and Mme Shrago.

When she reflects on how students have changed over three decades of teaching, Doris is convinced they are more confident. “The girls are more ambitious, more exuberant than they used to be and more self-motivated. They are more willing to take risks and challenge themselves, more aware of their own worth. This is not surprising since we now focus so actively on students’ future careers, but I hope it is also a sign of the times, of renewed feminism, as girls realise they are as good as the boys.”

Over the years, Doris has been involved in key decisions involving the future of the school. Her former colleagues describe her as a “powerhouse of efficiency, clarity and insight” and someone who could always find the 25th hour in the day. Her advice to those seeking school leadership positions is to “always be open to new ideas, keep in touch with the girls, and make sure you encourage and motivate both students and colleagues.”

Thank you, Doris, for everything – generations of alumnae owe their careers and their linguistic skills to your teaching, and colleagues have been inspired by your energy, your professionalism and the care you show to your students. We wish you all the best for a very happy retirement.


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