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Obituary: Former Wychwood School headteacher cared deeply for her pupils
4:00pm Thursday 20th February 2014 in News
A FORMER headmistress of Oxford independent girls’ school Wychwood School has died aged 98.
Johanne Schuller held the position from 1973 to 1981 and oversaw a prosperous period for the school.
She also worked for the Oxford and Cambridge Examination Board and volunteered for Meals on Wheels.
She was born Johanne Erskine Reid in 1915 on a farm in Kincardineshire, Scotland to George and Mary Reid.
Her mother, a teacher before her marriage, came from a family of farmers, teachers and ministers of the Presbyterian church.
Mr Reid’s family was also rooted in North East Scotland and he had retired to the farm from a career as a tea planter in Assam.
As a young girl, Mrs Schuller walked three miles daily to the nearest village primary school and went on to catch a 10 mile train journey to her secondary school, Stonehaven’s Mackie Academy.
After graduation, she was accepted into the University of St Andrews in Fife to read Modern Languages.
It was to be the last time she lived in her home country.
In 1936 she worked as an au pair in Belfort, which was the beginning of a life-long interest in all things French. She then returned to London and took a job at Oxford University Press, where she worked with Charles Morgan and Gerry Hopkins.
It was at the press that she met Teddy Schuller, whom she married in 1942.
Prior to this she had spent some months in Evesham monitoring foreign language broadcasts, with an unusual group of émigrés including a classmate of Mr Schuller’s in Vienna. She spent the next 20 years raising her two sons Andrew, born in 1944, and Thomas, born in 1948.
Mrs Schuller obtained her teaching qualifications at the Oxford University Department of Education in 1960.
Her career at Wychwood began before her divorce in May 1962.
It was then that she started teaching French and working with a group of colleagues interested in the education of girls who might not have done well in schools focussing solely on academic achievement.
Mrs Schuller thought that Wychwood’s system of governance by pupils was unique.
In 1967 she became deputy headmistress and went on to take over from a Ms E M Snodgrass as headmistress in 1973. Outside of her main career, she worked for the Oxford and Cambridge Examination Board and volunteered for Meals on Wheels.
She also had an interest in politics, as evidenced by her work with the local Labour Party.
Her hobbies included the daily crosswords and travel.
Mrs Schuller went on annual visits to St Tropez, in the south of France, and other trips also took her to Russia, Greece, Eygpt, China, Australia and Africa.
She lived on Northmoor Road, in North Oxford for most of her life. She had lived in St Luke’s nursing home in Headington for the last three years before her death.
She died in Oxford on December 13, 2013.
She is survived by her two sons, three grandchildren and six nephews and nieces.
Wychwood School is collecting tributes to Mrs Schuller and plans to present them to Mrs Schuller’s two sons at a later time.
A funeral was held at Oxford Crematorium on January 7.
A memorial service is to be held at Wychwood School on June 7.
Those wishing to attend should enquire with the school on 01865 557976.
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