“I have always wanted to do my best as a teacher and so receiving the award was an enormous encouragement to keep doing what I do.”
Winner, Teacher Of The Year In A Primary School, 2007
now Deputy Headteacher at The Meadows Primary School in Lincoln
Winning the award was one of the most amazing things that has ever happened to me especially as it came during a challenging period of time. I started teaching in 1998 and the school I had enjoyed working in for several years was in Special Measures, and this was a tough experience for everybody. One day the Acting Headteacher told me that she needed to speak to me, which was worrying. She asked me to sit and read a letter and I discovered that she had nominated me for a teaching award and that I was a finalist for the East Midlands region. After such a difficult time, the feeling was incredible. The subsequent award I received, which then went on to become the national award was one of the most amazing things that has ever happened to me. I remember being given the opportunity to read comments that had been shared by teachers, teaching assistants and parents as part of the awards process. This was very humbling and a tremendous privilege. I have always wanted to do my best as a teacher and so receiving the award was an enormous encouragement to keep doing what I do. I had just applied for the position of Deputy Headteacher at a new school so this was an amazing way to start! I often look back to that moment and remind myself that doing what you can, where you are, is very simple but that it really does make a difference.
THE JOB, CHANGES AND CHALLENGES
I had several ideas about what I wanted to do when I was older, ranging from being a graphic designer to presenting the weather on TV! I loved art and being creative, as well as writing and reading. Being a teacher was the one job that seemed to involve (almost) everything I enjoyed in some way. I also remember some negative experiences from my own time in school, and one particularly unpleasant one where a rather grumpy and harsh teacher shouted at children when they found things difficult – including me. I made up my mind to do my very best to ensure that children in my class never had those kinds of experiences.
My main focus has always been to teach the person and not just the subject. I’m interested in children as individuals and what will make them successful adults when they’re older. Therefore, teaching for me can never just be about sharing knowledge or a concept. Children have feelings and emotions and experiences at home that they bring into school with them. I have met many former pupils, now in their twenties, who tell me that they remember the way in which the school helped and supported them, and how this encouraged them. I want to be a teacher who does that, even though it may take time and effort.
I love bumping into people I used to teach and finding out what they have been up to! I was at a staff Christmas meal a couple of years ago when someone appeared from across the room and gave me a hug before I could even see who it was! I discovered that it was one of my very lively former pupils who told me that he had loved being in my class years ago. Another I saw told me that she had never forgotten a day when I had helped to stop some unkind behaviour directed towards her, and how it had given her the confidence to know that someone believed in her. On another occasion, I found that another pupil, who had been quiet and unassuming, had achieved a significant position within the Royal Navy and told me stories about his travels to dangerous situations around the world. Playing just a little part of each of these people’s lives means a tremendous amount.
Be yourself. I work with many fantastic teachers, and their individuality is what makes them really special. Learn from others all the time, but be you.
THE TEACHING PROFESSION
No matter how many changes there are, and how much pressure there is from different sources, I genuinely think that it’s the best job in the world! I like to remind myself from time to time that ideas will come and go, and I have learned not to be too concerned when a new initiative comes out, or we feel a bit bombarded with ‘stuff’. I have never met or worked with a teacher who is not doing the best they can, even though many of them probably believe it’s not enough. I stay because I want to remind people that you can always make a difference to someone, somewhere.
I think my advice would be not to take yourself too seriously. Laugh a lot and have fun, enjoying the experience, even when things go wrong. Children need ‘real’ people as role-models, not robots – and real people make mistakes. We’ll continue to be doing the very best we can, and making a difference, one child at a time.