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Skipton exchange pioneer dies

A GERMAN teacher who was instrumental in setting up exchange links between Skipton's two grammar schools and its twin town in Bavaria has died.

Herr Stephan Scheuerl was the instigator on the German side of the annual exchange visits between language students from Skipton and its twin town in Bavaria, Simbach.

Herr Scheuerl retired at the end of January 2005 after over 30 years on the staff at Tassilo-Gymnasium in Simbach. He was 62 at the time of his death.

He had been head of the French department there for most of his career, but was also an enthusiastic and highly qualified teacher of English.

He always wanted languages to be more than just classroom activities and arranged many school visits abroad to enable young people to get to know each other across national and linguistic boundaries.

He undertook several school trips to Rome and latterly was a major contributor to the preparatory work for Simbach's eventual twinning with the Italian town of Tolmezzo and was subsequently a member of that twinning association's committee.

Most importantly for Skipton, however, was his role in the annual school exchanges, which began in 1983.

He regularly visited Skipton with parties of German Year 9 pupils, and also made private visits to friends. He made his last visit during his final year at the school, celebrating 20 years of the exchange, in April 2004.

He, along with other long-serving "exchange colleagues", received framed photographs of the Dales in grateful recognition of all the effort they had invested over the years.

Stephan Scheuerl not only organised many of these visits and acted as guide to the English groups on their excursions in Bavaria, he also hosted visiting teachers from Skipton.

Everyone received a warm welcome, help in interpreting the Bavarian language, history and customs, and plentiful supplies of often home-cooked Bavarian food - although he would also take colleagues out to meals in attractive restaurants in Bavaria or neighbouring Austria.

Herr Scheuerl was an accomplished choral singer, had a wide general knowledge, a firm command of English and American idioms, a sharp critical faculty and an often sardonic sense of humour, all of which made him excellent - if at first rather forbidding - company.

He will be sadly missed: in the valediction in the Tassilo "Jahresbericht" of 2004/5 he was called "eine Institution in Simbach" - he was equally "an institution" in the Skipton-Simbach schools' exchange, and many pupils, parents and teachers in Skipton and district have reason to be grateful, having benefited hugely from his vision and commitment.

The latest group left Skipton for Simbach on Wednesday of this week - a fitting testament to his achievement.

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