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By JAMES MURRAY

WE HEAR a great deal about falling standards and struggling schools But the outstanding success of Britain’s inspirational teachers often passes us by. Just one brilliant educator can make a difference in thousands of lives. Last month Francis Elive was dubbed the Maths Whisperer after his entire class achieved A* grade GCSEs six months early.

Andria Zafirakou with some of her art students

Andria Zafirakou with some of her art students (Image: Handout)

Thirty year 11 pupils at Fitzalan High School in Leckwith, Cardiff, passed maths with flying colours.

Roger Pope, spokesperson for the Get Into Teaching campaign and a National Leader for Education, says achievements like these highlight why it can be such a rewarding career choice. “A passionate teacher can truly shape lives, from the child they teach to the adult they become,. It’s a wonderful feeling knowing every lesson shapes a life.

“I would encourage anyone with the passion and potential to teach to visit the Get Into Teaching website to find out more about the career and the support available.”

Here are other teachers who are getting top marks for their students.

DAVID RICHARDS, 41, teaches ­history at St Illtyd’s Catholic High School, in Cardiff 

The school is celebrating after 15 pupils joined Mensa having passed the challenging entrance exam.

Student Gabriel Navarro, 12, achieved the maximum of 162 IQ points, a score which puts him above the reported IQs of Albert Einstein and Professor Stephen Hawking.

Fellow pupil Daniel Napper, 12, who scored 151, said: “I can finally rival my older sister Lydia who took the test before and got 162 points.”

Mr Richards is being credited with drawing out the extra effort required from the group: “We put them in what we call the learning pit, which means we give them hard problems to solve. It teaches resilience because to get out of the pit you have to solve the problems.”

History teacher David Richards

History teacher David Richards (Image: Handout)

New Mensa member Ethan Davey says the learning pit has worked for him. “It’s helped my confidence because now I know if I get an OK score in something I can persevere to get a better score.”

As well as teaching, Mr Richards is also the school’s “more able and ­talented” coordinator, identifying promising pupils and pushing them to achieve their full potential.

It is all part of the Seren Network system, a collaboration between state schools, local authorities, ­colleges and universities to support the more academically able pupils and help them get into good ­universities in the UK and abroad.

Andria Zafirakou, 41, teaches art at Alperton Community School in Brent, north-west London 

Ms Zafirakou has seen strong results by instilling her students with the belief that they are all capable of producing stunning work. She exudes enthusiasm and an infectious confidence that inspires her pupils to produce highly creative art works, which fizz with colour and style.

Ms Zafirakou even travels on the school bus with the children to get an insight into their lives. She is also a constant presence at the school gates to ensure there is no bullying.

Emma Russo at work

Emma Russo at work (Image: Handout)

Emma Russo, 30, teaches physics and science at South Hampstead High School in London

A few years ago she came up with the idea of inviting top women in engineering and physics to speak to female students about their work and the challenges they faced on their ­journeys to success.

Called “Girls in Physics”, it proved so ­popular that pupils interested in physics from across London are invited along. One event was attended by 120 people.

Ms Russo constantly challenges and questions the popular misconception that physics is a ­difficult subject, an attitude which puts some girls off pursuing the subject to A‑level.

“I don’t think physics is harder than other subjects,” she says. “And I work hard to dispel any fears pupils have that the subject is too hard for them. Part of my role is to ensure students are aware of all the opportunities available to them.”

Since last September she started a new role at the school as director of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) which covers any subjects which fall under the four disciplines, including astronomy, chemistry, computer ­science and physics.

As she broadens her teaching ­horizons, she also has ambitions to roll out Girls in Physics nationally.

Simon Gunstone, 45, teaches English at Royal Wootton Bassett Academy in Wiltshire 

Mr Gunstone uses his enthusiasm for Shakespeare to motivate his pupils and last year won the coveted Pearson Gold Award for Teacher of the Year in a Secondary School.

“As a teacher you have the unique opportunity to help your students feel like anything is possible, which is a huge privilege,” he says.

“It is our job to ­discover their talents, channel ways in which they can learn more, and inspire them to challenge themselves and potentially broaden their horizons. It takes energy, ­dedication and hard work to teach students and keep them engaged.”

Award winner Simon Gunstone

Award winner Simon Gunstone (Image: Handout)

He says that he pushes himself to explore new ways of stimulating his students.

“It helps them stay engaged and enthusiastic about English as a ­subject. Throughout my 23 years in teaching, receiving the Pearson Award and various thank you notes from students and colleagues made me realise the real positive impact I’ve made on my students’ lives.

“I have a true passion for all things related to the subject of English. I ensure that every student in my care achieves their potential in a positive way. It takes energy, dedication and hard work to teach students and keep them engaged.

“I work hard to ensure students enjoy and have knowledge in the subject by taking them on trips to The Globe (theatre) for tours, workshops and performances.

“This excites students and time outside the classroom allows us to relate these hands-on experiences to the text as we travel, which helps students feel connected, engaged and enthusiastic about English as a subject.”

Tony Grogan, 47, teaches history at Turton School in Manchester.

Mr Grogan rose through the ranks to be a major in the Army but finds the classroom more rewarding.

Tony Grogan teaches at Turton School in Manchester

Tony Grogan teaches at Turton School in Manchester (Image: Handout)

“I made the decision to become a teacher to seek a new challenge after a successful army career,” says Tony, who has been in the classroom for three years.

“Teaching recognised the qualities and skills I had learnt from my time in the Army and it’s the only job I can think of where I can now honestly say I am helping prepare future doctors, leaders, ­community workers, ­builders and engineers. For example, I have been ­fortunate to take ­students on a trip to the WW1 battlefields of France.

“During the trip I shared my own experience of the Army. This allowed me to explain some of the thoughts and worries soldiers would have had on the battlefield. With my sixth-former students, I shared my experiences in Afghanistan to help encourage their wider understanding of the world.

“I am honest and open with those older students and I discuss my own challenges returning home from that environment, ­linking it to mental health and ­highlighting the importance of not dealing with things alone and reminding students to always speak to someone.

“Like many careers, teaching comes with its challenges.

“But to know you can have a positive influence on ­students, both inside and outside of the classroom, is so rewarding.”