The man behind the Global Classroom, which fosters educational links between Shetland and countries all around the world, has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday honours list.
Stewart Hay, depute head teacher at the Anderson High School, received the award for services to local and international education.
Speaking to The Shetland Times on Saturday, he said he thought the letter he received from the Cabinet Office informing of the honour was a joke, but was quickly disabused of that notion when an official from the government department made a follow up call to ask whether he would be accepting it.
Mr Hay, who is not known for his royalist sympathies, said that when he realised the honour was serious he reflected long and hard on whether to accept.
“At first I thought it was a practical joke. I have been the victim of many from good friends over the years. But I came to realise that it wasn’t about individual aggrandisement, but recognition of the collective achievement of many people in this community.
“I don’t think as a teacher and someone who has done voluntary work in the community, that you can achieve anything without the people around you. It is as much for the many colleagues, the many students, the many people throughout this community who have enabled me to make a small contribution to the community. As long as it is recognised as a collective achievement I am happy.”
Mr Hay, who is currently hosting pupils from as far afield as New Zealand, the USA and South Africa as part of the 2009 Global Classroom conference in Shetland, said he had learned far more than he had put in.
“Over the past week young people from around the world have been in Fair Isle, in Unst, in Eshaness. They have learned a great deal about those places and about each other. I have learned a great deal, which is very humbling.”
Frank Millsop, who founded the Community Opportunities for Participation in Enterprise (Cope) company in Lerwick, was made an MBE. Mr Millsop now lives in Afghanistan.
And Shetlander Ronnie Smith, who is general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, received an OBE for services to education.