July 28, 1918 – December 21, 2008
On December 21st, Veronica Feitosa, a fondly remembered teacher at The British School, passed away at the age of ninety. While she left The British School in 1988 – the year I arrived – I was aware then that she was a great, larger than life character. She was one of those enthusiastic and energetic educators who made a huge impression on all around her.
Given that few presently at the school were able to recall personal experiences about Veronica, we invited people who may have remembered her – as either their teacher or a colleague – to contribute some thoughts. They are presented below and present a fitting and moving testimony to a wonderful individual. There is little doubt that Veronica Feitosa was one of those rare characters who are never forgotten, long after they have been present in people’s lives. I am just sorry that I didn’t have the opportunity to get to know her.
The following was written about Veronica in a recent edition of the ‘Umbrella’:
Veronica was a Swiss/British national who came to Brazil after the war with her first husband. An educator by nature and by profession, she ran the BritishSchool in Niterói for many years. She moved to The British School of Rio in the early 1960’s and taught there for two different periods until 1988. After her retirement, she continued to give private lessons. Veronica passed away at the age of 90 and was buried at Gamboa cemetery on December 22nd. May she rest in peace.
Mrs Feitosa arrived at the school a year or two before I left Class 7 in 1969. She never taught me, so I never had the benefit of seeing her dance her way through French classes – I just remember her as being very strict and rather terrifying. Much later, in 1984, we were both in a production of ‘Hay Fever’ by the Players. It seemed that she had taken on a whole new persona – lively, joking, talking out of turn, contradicting the director; but I suppose it was just that I was finally an adult and could appreciate her wicked sense of humour and fun. She played Clara, the maid, a walk-on part – but she nearly stole the show. I rather suspect that was the case in most things she did!
Jenny (Marvin) Byers (ex-pupil)
Veronica Feitosa – My Class 2 Teacher (Way back B.C.!)
“Oh yes, I remember you very well!” she would say…”the very quiet little girl with a big bow and glasses” – VERY QUIET!!! – I was terrified – not of Veronica, but of the group of stuffed animals she kept at the back of the classroom! There was a big bird of some sort, with a huge beak and dark evil eyes. Everywhere I went, everything I did, that bird was always watching!
Ah! Veronica – what a character! She was a mixture of endless general knowledge, a quick tongue and a great eccentric sense of humour. No other teacher taught me more about the world and nature.
My fondest memory of Veronica is following the Class 2 line all over the school grounds – giggling – whilst Veronica, at the front, played a tune on the small harmonica. It was her “Pied Piper” syndrome – whatever – we loved it!
And so, another amazing teacher rests – probably the last of a generation that began the era of The British School. How many lives did she touch? How many children did she help mould into capable adults? How many of us will remember her? I know I will! Thank you Veronica!
Jane Anderson (Drama Teacher at The British School – Botafogo Site, and also an ex-pupil)
Students will probably recall her French lessons, which were mostly singing and dancing accompanied by Veronica on the mouth organ. They will also remember her for her History and Natural Science lessons – she had a ‘museum’ in the classroom, with all sorts of things from cacau pods to stuffed animals.
She was always adopting stray kittens, many of which the pupils helped to look after during breaks and such like.
I can remember travelling to and from Sports with her and we had both our Class 2s singing, in French and in English, to pass the time…………with all the actions of course!
Her party piece was the ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’, with actions to remind everyone of which verse came next, best done accompanied by the Headmaster, Mr John Lewis.
Laurie Henderson (ex-pupil in the early 60s and then teacher, and Head of Lower Primary).
My memories of Mrs Feitosa are many and varied. I remember when I went to the first parent meeting for my oldest son, Nick. He was in Class 1 and I made an appointment to meet Mrs Feitosa. She greeted me puzzled because Nick was not her student, but she taught Nature lessons to his class and he would always come home full of “Mrs Feitosa said this and Mrs Feitosa said that…” so we wanted to meet her! But perhaps one of the strongest memories was in the teachers’ room one break when she began to talk to me about the various leaves of the trees outside in the playground; she was simply magic – inspired – and I am sure she stimulated a love of Science in many of her students as she did in me when I got that little glimpse of a “master” teacher!
Mrs Chrysanthi Manoukis Fairchild (ex- Junior School teacher)
On the day the Queen visited The British School…
I found my old invitation from 1968 from the school for the State Visit of HRH Queen Elizabeth and HRH Prince Philip. As you see the picture, there was Mrs Feitosa, making sure we all stood upright and behaved our best in the Hall, as we greeted the Queen.
I can remember waving a Union Jack in one hand and a Brazilian flag in the other as they drove up the driveway into the school. I also remember having to wait in one of the classrooms for the Queen to come in and being told by Mrs Feitosa how we must all rise from our seats as she entered.
Mrs Feitosa, thank you!
By Jimmy Pannet – ex-pupil from 1976 to 1990
It was with great sadness that I received the news of Veronica Feitosa’s passing in December. She most certainly will be a teacher that evoked all types of feelings among her students, but one can be sure that she was the face of what to expect from The British School for over 30 years. She was someone who opened our minds to many things and taught us in so many practical ways. She was capable of being sweet, but also ensured tough discipline. As such, she might have been one of the most misunderstood teachers the school has ever had. My family was fortunate to have known her both in and outside of the classroom, as pupils, colleagues and friends, and through it all we can affirm that it was a privilege.
Like many people from her generation that lived in Europe, the Second World War probably shaped her in many ways, and looking back I understood where it is she came from when teaching us. In 1957, my mother’s family arrived from Egypt as refugees from the Egyptian government’s policy of evicting foreigners. After choosing and traveling to Brazil – a tough decision since no one in the family spoke Portuguese – they arrived in Rio and soon after my grandfather started working at the school. Not only was it difficult to learn Portuguese, my mother and uncle (then 9 and 7 years old) only spoke French. But there was Veronica, with her impeccable French, who patiently went out of her way and took the time to sit and help them learn to ease their way into the school.
Just about a decade later my father arrived to teach at the school and upon arriving found somewhat of a mother figure in Veronica, and a great friendship started. Soon after my parent’s marriage came both my brother’s and my first encounter with Veronica and one of her multiple talents. As young children not even old enough for kinder garden, Veronica gave us rather big stuffed animals, but what stood out was she actually hand made them herself, and through the years they proved to be our favorites!
One of the things her students will always remember was her love for nature. Her Class 2 classroom was a mini “mata-atlantica” with different species of plants, and more memorably – animals. Amphibians, fish and birds (especially her burrowing owl) were a constant source of enjoyment for all of her pupils. She not only taught us about them, she taught us how to look after them – and what better way is there to learn about nature?
The other thing her students will remember is her discipline; if anything, she was an “old-school” teacher, firm and determined to get the students to do the right thing. She once made me read a book three times because I didn’t quite pay attention when reading it the first two times. And her method worked as I still remember the book nearly 30 years later. (I could write another page on what would happen if one forgot their homework, but I’ll spare you). Her wartime rationing experience meant that at lunchtimes, she made sure that we ate a little bit of everything, and cleaned the plate. Those with practice of having a child eat liver will know how tough that is, and we weren’t allowed to leave the table until everything was gone.
Veronica was about more than just teaching and discipline. You could count on her joy and enthusiasm in taking part in all school activities. She was always dressed up for São João, dancing with teachers, parents and students. She always had her bean bag throwing stall in the school fête (in fact the idea of having beads instead of money was hers) and always had a Christmas end-of-year play – both in French and English.
It was later in life that I once again saw her caring side. She came many times to visit my father in hospital when he had cancer. She was always caring, always trying to make him smile and feel at home, and for that I will always be grateful. The last time I saw her she had this huge smile (as always) and said in her naturally high pitched voice: “How wonderful it is to see you!” Now, it is I who say – Veronica, how wonderful it was to have you in our lives! Thank you for everything!