My friend Ann Ambache, who has died aged 72 of a heart attack, left Northern Ireland in the 1960s for a 40-year teaching career in England. She herself carried on learning new skills all her life, which enabled her to make a move from home economics to teaching information technology to children with special needs.
Ann was born in Dungannon, County Tyrone, where her parents, Bridget (nee Hart) and Patrick Campbell, ran a small farm. Ann, eldest of four children, attended Killyman junior school and Dungannon academy. She had to be self-sufficient from an early age and helped her aunt in her shop.
After taking her A-levels, Ann trained as a home economics teacher at Mary Ward College in Nottingham (1967-70) and then taught in Warley in the West Midlands. She also worked for several evenings a week in a hostel for older children. There she met Jeremy Ambache, a young social worker. He asked her out and for their first date she took him to a parents’ evening at her school.
They married in 1973 and moved to London, where Ann became a supply teacher at Sacred Heart high school in Hammersmith. After a career break to have their daughters, Zoe and Lucy, she returned to Sacred Heart. Ann had a real curiosity and thirst for learning and completed a BEd at the University of Surrey in 1985 while teaching.
Policy changes moved home economics into food technology, which inspired Ann to retrain. She gained a certificate in counselling at Westminster Pastoral Foundation in 1991; a BA (Hons) in psychology at the Open University in 1992; a diploma in information technology and education at King’s College London in 1993 and a diploma in education for those with special needs or dyslexia at Kingston University in 1995. With her new skills she developed a rewarding career in special needs education with responsibility for IT, joining Cambridge school in Hammersmith, where she remained until her retirement in 2008.
She resisted school politics and management, preferring to stay in the classroom, and was famous among her students for her portrayal of a good and bad interview job candidate – everyone remembers her impression of a scruffy, gum chewing and uninterested teenager.
Ann swam and attended the gym daily at Putney leisure centre, near her home in south-west London. She enjoyed London’s cultural opportunities, especially seeing Ibsen or Chekhov plays, and was the secretary of a women’s culture and theatre group in Putney, where she and I first met, for more than 20 years.
She had a wicked sense of humour and was highly irreverent; she was a “giver”, especially to her family, looking after her six grandchildren during her 13 years of retirement. She was a wonderful cook and loved to grow and pick fruit and vegetables.
Ann is survived by Jeremy, Zoe and Lucy, and her grandchildren, Eva, Ella, Una, Rory, Zander and Stella, and by her brothers, John and Francis, and sister, Kathleen.