It’s official – the best secondary school teacher in the country works in Royal Wootton Bassett.
Simon Gunstone of Royal Wootton Bassett Academy has taught English at the school for 18 years and impressed the judges of the Pearson Teaching Awards.
A judge for the teacher’s equivalent of the Oscars was heard to have said that the Year 10 poetry lesson he observed was the best he’d seen in 30 years of teaching.
Simon said: “That was very kind of him to say. The win was a total surprise and I’m still in shock, I felt overwhelmed, it’s quite difficult to have the limelight thrust upon you.
“It was a surreal moment but I’m very grateful and humbled by it all. The students were fantastic during the lesson that was observed, they’re the real stars and deserve credit.
“This award is a great reflection of Royal Wootton Bassett Academy and I can’t thank the department and staff and students enough, it was a real team effort.
“It was great to have the headteacher on stage with me to share this experience.”
Simon and academy headteacher George Croxford were two of the 74 winners of a silver Pearson prize in July but only one person per category could win the gold award.
They both attended a glitzy awards ceremony in London to find out who would go home with the top trophies. There were four finalists in the headteacher category and 12 in the secondary school teacher of the year category.
George said: “It was amazing and a huge honour for Simon and the school. I hope to present the award to him again in front of the students so they can celebrate his win with him.
“The win was not surprising to me because he is a wonderful teacher and a wonderful man who has inspired so many students over the years.
“He challenges the students and sets them up well for the future, it’s fascinating to see and very few people can do it as well as he does.”
Originally from Bradford-upon-Avon, 45-year-old Simon added: “This is a challenging profession but the rewards are priceless. Seeing the students grow and become fantastic young people is amazing.
“I’ve had lots of emails from ex-students which mean a lot. Teachers strive to do their very best for their students every day and deal with a lot of stress and strains.
“You are constantly growing and never really arrive, every day feels like a beginning with new possibilities.
“This is a big school but it feels like a small family, it’s a special place. I’m lucky to have fond a school where you can thrive and flourish.”