George Gibson (2021)

George Gibson has been presented with the Scottish Mathematical Council Achievement Award for 2021. Normally the presentation of the glass plaque would have taken place after the opening address at the Annual Conference in Stirling University but with Covid restrictions in place, the conference was held online. SMC Chair, Carol Lyon, described George as a worthy recipient, summarised his long and distinguished career in mathematics education and highlighted just some of his many qualities which had led seen him come out on top as this year’s winner. George replied with a video message of thanks, though the award could not be handed over.

So the second part of the ceremony took place at Culloden Academy in late May and was conducted by Bill Richardson. The school’s headteacher, Dr James Vance (left) and PT Maths, Alan Robertson (right) had invited along a number of George’s former colleagues and pupils to witness the event and offer their congratulations, a lovely touch appreciated by all.

Bill read the following citation:

George Gibson’s teaching career began in Lawside Academy, Dundee. He then went to Lesotho where he spent over four years. On returning to Scotland he taught in Penilee Secondary School in Cumbernauld and Hillpark Secondary where he organised a competition for all Glasgow schools. He then moved north to Inverness as Adviser in Mathematics for Highland Region. His patch was vast geographically, covering an area from Kingussie to Thurso, including Skye. Trying to supply subject-specific inservice for such a far-flung community was not easy and, apart from a few days when teachers came to a central venue, George clocked up thousands of miles visiting individual schools.

Mental maths was one of his priorities and standards in Highland improved markedly during his tenure. In the late 90s, George started residential weekends for students from all over Highland who were studying Advanced Higher Maths. The programme covered problem solving in all its guises, including outdoor activities. A highlight was the ceilidh where George played the bagpipes for the dancing and pupils performed on various instruments to a phenomenally high standard. George espouses old fashioned values of courtesy and respect. He set high standards for everyone and his pawky sense of humour helped to ensure that these standards were maintained.

His many friends and former colleagues will be delighted that, now retired, he has received the Scottish Mathematical Council Achievement Award for 2021.

George responded by thanking Bill, continuing:

I think it’s highly appropriate that you are presenting it since you were the Principal Examiner for Advanced Higher. When I think of the Advanced Higher courses I think of the eminent mathematicians and physicists who gave of their time freely and in good spirit, and it was an absolute pleasure to actually meet them. Secondly, I was very privileged in schools to work with very high-quality teachers from whom I got a lot of inspiration, particularly in certain schools between periods, when we had a bit of banter and a bit of laughter… that springs to mind immediately from those who are present today. It was just an absolute joy to work with those people. A highlight for me was working with teachers to produce mathematics competitions for pupils at all levels and working with the teachers, we could then provide something I would have loved as a pupil myself. Finally, I must say thank you to the thousands of pupils I was really fortunate to teach and who I got a lot from myself. A lot of them have now
become friends, and looking back, I wouldn’t have done anything differently, but not forgetting my time in Africa. Thank you very much to everyone.

For video clips of the two parts of the award ceremony here (from 6:40 onwards)

George Gibson