My friend Sarah Gartland, who has died aged 55 of ovarian cancer, was an English teacher as a foreigner, a stoic feminist and political activist.
Born in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, Sarah was the eldest daughter of Christine (née Wilde), a saleswoman, and Bill Gartland, a firefighter. Her sister Elena was born three years later.
Sarah attended North Bromsgrove High School and studied Romance Languages at Aberystwyth University, graduating in 1988. In the same year, she obtained her Celta Certificate (Certificate in Teaching English), after which she began teaching at the British School in Bergamo, Italy. In 1993, she received a Diploma in English from the British Council in Milan.
I met Sarah when she came to work at Southlands College, University of Roehampton in 1998. Together we have developed many English language modules for business students, mainly for international students. Despite her full study schedule, Sarah completed her Masters in English Teaching at Thames Valley University the following year.
Sarah was passionate about language, developing a teaching style using idiosyncrasies and colloquial explanations. These training sessions often included examples of poorly written published works that elicited outbursts of laughter when different meanings were described. She was a much loved and respected teacher who gave endless support and time to her students; Sarah was always focused only on what was best for them – it never occurred to her to seek the rewards that were undoubtedly hers. She was fluent in Italian and French, with some ability in German and Arabic, she just loved language.
A keen cyclist and walker, Sarah loved London’s parks and places like Kew Gardens, but equally loved the sea and the countryside. She was an indomitable feminist, a passionate vegetarian, an excellent cake maker and a dedicated trade union activist. An elected committee member of Roehampton’s Universities and Colleges Union (UCU), Sarah supported its work on protecting jobs and contracts, and assisted with equality, pay and pensions. She also campaigned for NHS workers, environmental issues and the rights of the Palestinian people, attending numerous pickets and demonstrations.
However, like many dedicated teachers and lecturers, Sarah became disillusioned with what she saw as falling standards in current British universities, and eventually the increased workload and long hours became overwhelming for her.
So, right after the first lockdown in 2020, she handed in her notice, packed her bags and left London for Lancaster. Quickly making new friends and taking up various work contracts, including teaching English to refugees at the Lancaster and Morecambe City Reserve, she bought herself an electric bike and joined a local ceramics class. Unfortunately, a year later she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
Before moving to Lancaster, Sarah worked on her PhD in Applied Linguistics under the guidance of the Institute of Education. Southlands College posthumously appointed Sarah an Honorary Fellow.
She is survived by Helen and her mother.