Inspirational teacher will be ‘badly missed’ at Lancashire school

Southlands High School teacher Joanna Shaw
Southlands High School teacher Joanna Shaw
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Tributes have been paid to an inspirational teacher who died just 20 days after being diagnosed with an extremely rare form of cancer.

Joanna Shaw, a teacher at Southlands High School in Chorley, filmed herself reading bedtime stories for her two little girls and made her husband promise they would not forget her after being told she had less than three weeks to live.

Joanna, best known as Jo, was told she had adrenal cancer, which affects just 40 people out of the 330,000 diagnosed with cancer in the UK every year, after returning from a family holiday.

Tests later showed the cancer had spread with tumours in her kidneys and liver and a blood clot had developed in her heart.

She spent her last days making memories for daughters Eva, seven, and Isla, three.

Gareth, from St Annes, said: “She made me promise she would be remembered. She spent her last days writing her life story for the kids and filming videos. She just sat down and that’s what she spent her evenings doing.

“Her death at such a young age and the fact that she is leaving behind such a young family makes her passing even harder to understand. Staff and students are still in shock at her passing and it will take time for school to recover.”

Alan Thomas

“She was an absolute angel who was completely selfless. She was all about making sure the children did well and we did well as a family.”

Jo, who also helped to raise Gareth’s two sons from a previous relationship, began to suffer from swollen ankles and a shortness of breath while in France in August.

Early last month, Jo suddenly deteriorated and was taken to A&E, where scans showed the full extent of her illness.

She died after being re-admitted to Blackpool Victoria Hospital on September 27.

Staff at Southlands High School have paid tribute to Jo, who also mentored students.

Headteacher Mark Fowle said: “Children, former pupils and staff have left some very moving messages on our tribute wall in school and these will be passed onto Jo’s family.

“The messages demonstrate the deep affection and respect there was for Jo. She was much loved by both children and staff and will be badly missed by all at Southlands.”

Jo’s pastoral manager Alan Thomas said: “Her death at such a young age and the fact that she is leaving behind such a young family makes her passing even harder to understand.

“Staff and students are still in shock at her passing and it will take time for school to recover.”

ICT teacher Katie Rennie said: “Jo touched the lives of lots of students past and present, she was so caring and thoughtful. We will all miss her so much.”