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Daphne Heiser

Mike Heiser pays tribute to his mother Daphne, who taught at several schools including Peterborough County Girls School, and helped establish our city's links with other towns and cities in Europe. 

My mother, Daphne Heiser, who has died aged 100, was a teacher of languages and promoter of international friendship who received an honour from Spain.

Born and brought up in Cricklewood, north-west London, Daphne was one of three children of Michael Landau, a scientist and metallurgist, and Florrie (nee Dancyger), in a Jewish family with a tradition of female scholarship, not common at the time. Two of Daphne’s aunts were headteachers, including Annie Landau, head of the Evelina de Rothschild school in Jerusalem. Olive Sachs, the neurologist, was a cousin.

Daphne’s father died in 1933 when she was almost 12, probably due to contact with radioactive materials, after which her mother worked as an administrator at Cricklewood synagogue.

From Brondesbury and Kilburn high school Daphne went to King’s College London, where she studied French and Spanish. After graduation, she undertook a year’s teaching training, also at KCL. In 1945 she met Albert Heiser through the Labour party, and they were married in three years later. They moved to Peterborough in 1953, and she lived there for most of the rest of her life.

Daphne taught at a variety of schools, notably Peterborough County Girls’ School. A dedicated and enthusiastic languages teacher, she is remembered by past pupils for her good classroom management and the hard work she expected from them.

She made contacts with schools abroad and paired up the pupils with pen-friends, organising school exchanges, spending weeks of her holidays abroad with the students, providing hospitality and putting on a programme of outings on the return visits.

She took career breaks when my sister and I were born in the late 50s, and when we lived in Brazil and Spain, due to our father’s job as an engineer. As a proponent of immersive language teaching, she thought nothing of sending us to local schools, where we were taught in Portuguese, then Spanish.

Daphne was a keen promoter of town-twinning and was active in establishing Peterborough’s links with Alcalá de Henares in Spain and Bourges in France. She was a co-opted member of the city council’s twinning committee. She was also president of the Peterborough Hispanic Society and active in the Anglo-French association.

In recognition of her work promoting ties with Spain, in 2012 she was appointed Encomienda (Commander) of the Order of Isabella the Catholic by the king and foreign minister of Spain.

Albert died in 1993. Daphne is survived by her children, Sarah and me, her grandchildren, Ellie and Ruth, and her sister, Vivienne.