I remember Val Hepple with great fondness, she tried so hard to teach me French. Despite my inability to write coherent sentences and grasp any concept of trying to use verbs in different tenses, Miss Hepple was incredibly patient, always thorough, and tirelessly encouraging and supportive. I love to visit France and whilst I am still trying to learn to communicate verbally, I am always astonished by the amount of vocabulary I seem to know. I did have a regular spot at Miss Hepple’s lunch table when a group of us would have lunch together before the vocab retest I invariably had to do. I did enjoy these lunches. Miss Hepple was incredibly good company; always interesting and often had me laughing. As a teacher myself, I can only hope that I manage to show the same dedication, so although she did not succeed in turning me into a linguist, she has been a role model for me in my career.
Penny Rowe (1985)
Biology teacher, Oundle School
When it comes to the teachers, I think it’s easy to remember the characters. There was Mr Whitcombe, affectionally nicknamed ‘Worzel’ because of his scarecrow like appearance and huge floppy mannerisms (he didn’t so much arrive in a classroom as crash-land in it). There was Mr Hyde, who was incredibly well suited to being a Computer Studies teacher because he acted like he was assembled by a shadowy group of boffins in Silicon Valley – when he blinked at you, it seemed like he was taking photos with his eyes in order to store on a floppy disk. There was Mr Melhuish the physics teacher, who, I’m sorry to say, we used to torture by humming in class and interfering with his hearing aid. There was Mr Barnes in his cool motorcycle leathers, Miss Swift with her dirty laugh, Mr Ellard and Mr Bratell with their artistic beards…so many characters! Even though I remember their quirks and idiosyncrasies I remember those that became friends the best, such as Miss Corby and Headmaster Mr Lowe, who both opened up a world of words and plays and books and opera and music performance which is both my career, my hobby and my first love.
Nev Fountain (1987)
Writer, Private Eye
I have the fondest memories of Mr Hadman, my Archaeology teacher. To say he was a maverick would be putting it very lightly. In hindsight, it seems a little odd that we were able to study archaeology at all – I’m not sure many other schools did. We’d skin goats (dead ones!), make Mead, and go on field trips where we rampaged up the banks of Iron age fortresses. Health and safety was not his strong point, but inspiring, empowering and creating a love of learning certainly was. He would also get us involved in extra-curricular activities – principally helping him organise and run the world conker championships! We all adored him and sought his praise as he treated us as interesting individuals, not just a group of kids he had to endure. At the time, I thought I just loved archaeology. Sadly, when I went to university to study it, I realised it was the teacher that I loved, not the subject. A brilliant teacher can bring any topic to life – even one thousands of years old.
Sarah Champion (1988)
Member of Parliament, Rotheram
It was probably Mr Bailey more than anyone else who inspired me to become a modern languages teacher. He was an expert in his field, and was strict but fair. Perhaps, above all, he was something of a comedian, having us rolling around in stitches much of the time. He was keen to maximise his pupils’ potential, stretching us through challenge and praising us sparingly, forever leaving us wanting more. These days, I try (but often fail) to follow his lead in every respect. Mr Adams may have been small in stature but had a large red face and bellowing voice, which when combined with his Welsh accent (one that thickened with rage) become all the more threatening – partly because you struggled to understand him! The prompt for you to reply (if you dared) was “…, boyo?!” which he tagged onto the end of his outbursts. It was his strictness and exacting standards that inspired us all in his A-level Design group to reach for the stars. His praise was like gold dust and cherished. Mr Howe encouraged me to pursue my love of basketball (and to become captain of the county team). His kind manner always made him easy to talk to, but he also knew how to keep us in line. He was a talented sportsman and despite basketball being his third/fourth specialism, he could still show up the young upstarts who thought they knew it all (of which I was probably one) with his steady layups and reliable jump-shots.
Sam Northwood (1990)
Headmaster, Nelson Thomlinson
Harry Stern was an amazing teacher and kept me engaged in every lesson with his perfect balance between discipline and brilliant humour. I am still able to recall individual lessons that he taught with energy, intellect and wit. A lesson on decimalisation included a dramatic silent entrance into the classroom by Harry, which in itself got our attention. He looked over his half spectacles in the door entrance, walked slowly to his desk, looked at everyone in the eye before placing his doctor’s bag carefully on the desk and picked up a piece of chalk. He proceeded to write 0.00000 all the way across the double blackboard and place “1” at the very end. He turned around, looked at us over his glasses, and then picked up a wooden 1m ruler and whacked it against the blackboard to break the silence. Speaking quite softly, he said: “This children is a very small number. It’s smaller than a fish’s tit.”. We were all completely captivated by the lesson that followed. When Tony Blair asked the nation to remember that one teacher that made a positive impact on us, it’s always Harry Stern for me.
Jim Briscoe (1993)
Commander, Royal Navy
Mrs Cracknell was hands down the most inspiring teacher I had the pleasure of being taught by. She set a fire in me to believe in my creative expression and was fantastic at making a space to feel safe and comfortable in. There was never a feeling of being judged, but always supported. I have taken the attributes she taught me into so many facets of my adult life. I have many fond memories of my time at PWS, but her English lessons were definitely a highlight.
Ross Duffy (2006)
It’s fair to say I wasn’t the best of students. I always struggled to keep my head focused on the work, far more interested in the social aspects of school. But while I was endeavouring to pull away, I had some fantastic teachers dedicated to keeping me on track. Mrs Hopkins, who took my form and English classes, always went above and beyond to help with coursework; a consistent rudder towards the right path. Mr Baxby nurtured my love of public speaking, a crucial facet of my career today. Mr Kelly showed me tough love when I needed it most, but always with a warm smile. I didn’t finish school with the grades I could have done. Looking back it’s almost as if I was driving for that outcome. Yet, I’m certain I wouldn’t have made it to the finish line at all without the commitment, creativity and care these special people showed me. Their efforts weren’t wasted; the lessons I learnt from each of them contribute to my day-to-day life, both in and out of work.
Tom Notley (2008)
Partner Manager, Databarracks
I had many inspiring teachers during my time at Prince William School, but a couple that particularly made an impact on me were Miss O’Connor, my English Literature teacher, and Miss Worboys, my A level Art teacher. Miss O’Connor’s energy made every class a pleasure, which meant I enjoyed reading and studying the texts in their own right, regardless of the looming exams. One of her tips that I can’t get on board with, however, is reading the end of a book first to make sure it doesn’t have a disappointing ending. I’ll take the risk! My Art classes with Miss Worboys were the highlight of my time at PWS. She gave us the freedom to work as we pleased yet provided much-needed motivation (and snacks) as coursework deadlines approached. Both teachers went beyond their classroom duties and it did not go unnoticed!
Emily Greenwood (2017)
Graduate, University of London