To celebrate World Teachers’ Day 2023, colleagues at the Sheffield Institute of Education recall the teachers that meant the world to us.
Mr Eskdale, Gosforth East Middle School, Newcastle Upon-Tyne, 1976-1979
Mr Eskdale understood, as I look back at it now, that if you take an interest in a child, they will be motivated to do their best because they believe that someone is keenly interested in what they can do and, more importantly, what they have to say. He was not about correction, he was about improvement, noting the qualities of what has been achieved and sensing the potential for development; all wrapped in a warmth that was conducive to wanting to do your best. The greatest driver of educational endeavour is surely trying. Create the condition in which a child wants to try, and they will achieve what they can. Mr Eskdale was a quiet teacher; contemplative, with an air that suggested he knew things. Young people can invest a great deal of trust in those teachers that earn their attention and respect. They might not be able to articulate it at the time, but that care and attention buries deep and stays in long term memory. Thank you, Mr Eskdale.
Senior Lecturer in English Education
Mr Redmond, Honeywell School, Barnsley 1983-1984
When I did ‘O’ level physics (1983-84) I was taught by a teacher called Chris Redmond. He invariably got a lot of stick from kids, but he knew his subject and I could tell he cared about what he was doing. One day he showed us the Van de Graaff generator. We all linked arms across the room, with the first kid touching the generator’s dome. The last kid in the line, messing about, pretended to touch a nearby tap, which he had been forbidden to do. Touching it was not necessary – I remember seeing the arc of electric current jumping the gap, and feeling like I’d been whacked on the arms by a big stick as we were all inadvertently ‘earthed’. I was hooked. I went home and wrote to my sister, who was at university, drawing her a diagram of me and my friends in the best physics lesson ever. That night I even tried to make my own Van de Graaff generator at home using Lego, Meccano, rubber bands and an egg poacher. I think it was experiences like this with Mr Redmond that made me become a science teacher. I owe him thanks.
Senior Lecturer in Science Education
Mr Feltham, Frampton Cotterell C of E Primary School, South Gloucestershire, 1982
“These grades do not reflect Karen’s ability.” This was the sentence in every report of exam grades each year at primary school. The highlight of my school career was an “Esprit de Corps” award – which I was given for feeding the class guinea pig. I’m proud of that award, but that sentence was a mystery. I knew I froze in end of year exams and in general I was not confident at school. I liked learning though; and I loved doing sums. In one maths lesson in the final year of primary school Mr Feltham gave us some sums. When we were checking the answers, Mr Feltham showed us how to answer a particular sum. I simply said, “I didn’t do it like that.” I didn’t realise Mr Feltham heard me. He held out his chalk and said, “Come and show us how you did it.” I did. That experience of being acknowledged as having something to offer changed my confidence and self-perception utterly. I have wondered what it was that made me feel able to speak that day. Mr Feltham showed that he believed I could do something, not just in that moment but across the year.
Dr Karen Nicholls
Principal Lecturer in the SIoE
Lloyd Tribello, Basingstoke Technical College, 1984-1986
School really wasn’t for me, and I could not wait to leave education. It wasn’t until I went to college on day release from a job that my love of learning really started to develop. Lloyd Tribello was a teacher who was passionate about science and interested in so many different things. He helped me to realise that learning did not have to be formal and only focused on grades and qualifications. He treated me like a person rather than a pupil. He appreciated that me being quiet wasn’t a sign of disinterest. He was funny, so learning became enjoyable. I only wish I had told him just how inspirational he was to me.
Senior Lecturer, PGCE Post 16 & Further Education
Monsieur Piquemal, St John’s School, Epping, 1984-1989
Monsieur Piquemal taught French at my working-class comprehensive school on the outskirts of London. The rumour was he had no big toes because of his particular way of walking. He always smiled and would say “bonjour!” when he passed us on his way to the staffroom. His eyes twinkled, and he made us laugh. He gave us all French names – mine was Gabrielle – and if no one else knew the answer, he would turn to me and say “Gabrielle?” and I would know the answer. He was the first teacher that made me feel smart. I went on to study French at university. My favourite modules were on Molière and French classical comedy. It made sense: Monsieur Piquemal’s teaching always made me see the fun in French. And I lived a year in Provence and learnt about all things French and more – restaurants, music, theatre, flânerie, swimming in rivers, making one coffee last for hours at a table outside a café…I’ll never forget it. Nor have I forgotten Monsieur Piquemal. I hope I made him proud. He made me proud of myself.
Dr Lisa McGrath
Associate Professor in Educational Linguistics
Professor Stephen Nugent, Goldsmiths College, London, 1984-1988
Dear Professor Nugent,
Today is Teachers’ Day in Turkey – a tradition instigated by M.K. Ataturk who claimed that “Teachers are the one and only people who save nations.” It is a tradition on this day to thank your teachers – past and present – especially those that have inspired or helped you. I would like to thank you, genuinely and deeply, for the influence that you had on me as a young man and for the change that you made to my life – a change that I still feel today. At Goldsmiths in 1983 (or thereabouts) you interviewed me as an A Level student and we talked about popular and not-so-popular music, particularly the effect of John Peel. The resulting offer from Goldsmiths gave me a great opportunity to begin an academic journey that, while not particularly straight, has been fascinating and deeply rewarding thanks in no small part to the education I received from you and your colleagues. You also helped me greatly through my dissertation which questioned whether the discipline of psychology would benefit from being more reflexive.
Thank you. You made a difference.
(1987 Graduate in Anthropology & Psychology)
Dr Nick Moore
Senior Lecturer in TESOL
Ian Rickles and Arthur Gibbs, Henry Fanshawe School, 1984 – 1988
I’d never really ‘got’ mathematics before I was 14, although I did rather like it. I also loved Physics but pre-14 we were placed into science sets based on our end of year maths reports, so I usually ended up in bottom set, unchallenging, physics classes. Ian Rickles was my Physics teacher for ‘O’ Levels, starting in 1984 and Arthur Gibbs started taking my maths class at the same time. Ian immediately spotted that he had several in the class who were much more interested and capable than he expected and taught us on a more or less individual basis (differentiated teaching if you please, unheard of in those days) thus providing us with appropriate challenge and support. Simultaneously Mr. Gibbs, an NQT as we’d say now, began to teach maths with enthusiasm and in real-world contexts. By 1986 I was able to gain top grades in both subjects, despite up to 1984 being told I’d be in CSE bottom sets for both. I was then able to go on to relevant ‘A’ level courses and subsequently get a good Maths degree. Favourite teachers I’ll always remember, mainly because they took an interest in their subjects and classes and actually taught!
Principal Learning Technologist
Associate Professor Lisa McGrath, SHU, 2021-2022
After a lifetime indulging my love of language, including teaching others how to write, it would have been easy to assume that there was little more I needed to learn about writing. So, it was with a (retrospectively arrogant) ratio of low expectations to high enthusiasm that I logged on to Lisa’s Writing (better) for international publication course. I was immediately hooked. Lisa embodies two of my favourite things: linguistic and teaching expertise. Her passion for helping others develop their writing was infectious. Without fail, her enthusiasm would rejuvenate my battered brain after an intensive day, set my synapses sparking and leave me eager to pick up my (digital) pen and write some more. Before the course I could write well by accident; now I can write better by design.
Dr Sarah Boodt
Senior Lecturer, PGCE Post 16 & Further Education
Mr David Nixon, Mrs Linda Needham and Mr Richard Needham, Brooksbank School, Elland, 1993-2000
I struggled to name just one teacher than inspired me at school. Mr Nixon, my physics teacher, Mr Needham and Mrs Needham (yes, married!) biology teachers always went above and beyond. All three taught me from Year 7 through to my ‘A’ levels – when I took all three sciences. From attending astronomy lectures at Leeds University (thanks to Mr Nixon) to a biology degree taster week at Sheffield University (thanks to Mr Needham), I was determined to go into a science career, ultimately becoming a science teacher myself. They were always ahead of the game in terms of teaching and learning and I distinctly remember using bits of ICT equipment which hadn’t been around a long time. Their passion and drive to engage young people in the real world gave me that spark, and I am pleased to say I am still in touch with Linda and Richard.
Climate Change and Sustainability Fellow
Alex Anthony-Lewczuk, University of Lincoln, 2006-2009
When I was in secondary school and college it was still at a time when being a nerd was seen as uncool and that being passionate about anything made you super uncool unless it was football (bleurgh). It wasn’t until I did my undergraduate degree that I realised just how broad the range of subjects you could study was, and having always been a geeky film, tv, books and videogames kind of kid this really excited me. Having Alex for a Popular Visual Culture module focusing on Science Fiction was the first time I felt I had a real role model in education. His passion and excitement to talk about things like Battleship Galactica and Arthur C. Clarke quotes within the context of media and cultural studies was a huge inspiration to me and I thought “I want to be doing this.” A few years later I went on to do a PGCE in Further Education and taught Media Studies and Videogame Development courses for 5 years and have also completed an MA in Media and Cultural Studies. I never forgot the teacher whose adoration of the subject made me realise being a nerd is a great and empowering thing, and who made me want to get into academia and teaching myself.
Learning Technology Advisor, huge nerd, and proud of it
Mrs Bennett, Elm Road Primary School, 1983 (ish)
I generally look back rather negatively on my experiences of school as a whole, but when contemplating an inspirational teacher, it is my first teacher who immediately springs to mind. Mrs. Bennett was nearing the end of her lengthy teaching career when I commenced my educational journey—she retired before I reached Year 6. I vividly recollect that her retirement gift was a brown three-piece suite, prominently displayed at the front of the hall during her farewell assembly—although the peculiarity of this memory now leads me to question whether it might have been a dream I am misremembering as fact. Digressions about furniture aside, there are two things I associate with Mrs. Bennett that linger in my memory. Firstly, the melodic tune she played on the piano in the hall as the accompaniment to our PE lessons, where we were tasked with frenzied skipping around the room in time with the progressively accelerating tempo. Secondly, and most significantly, I recall her kindness. On my first day of school—indeed, on many school days that followed—I was an emotional wreck. Yet, I distinctly recall Mrs. Bennett comforting me, cradling me as I clung to her like a tiny, lost koala. In the years that followed, as I inexplicably chose to become a teacher myself, I aspired to channel some of the same kindness that was shown to me during those early days of school.
Dr Chris Bailey
Senior Lecturer in Education
Mr Burton, Yewlands School, 1984 – 1989
I found school ‘ok’ and as a usual teenager, I mumpt and moaned about going. To be engaged, you need a teacher that can drag you into their world and show you just how good their subject is. My Lord, did Mr Burton drag us in! He was my Geography teacher and such a character. I can remember his walking style, the clicks on the floor by the metal segs on his shoe heels and the 80’s style ties he used to wear. He had a full head of jet-black hair which had a slight spike to it and a tash that put Magnum PI’s to shame! During mock exams, I recall him telling us that there was a very special programme on TV that night that would really help us focus on the geography exam and he urged us all to watch it, as we’d do a pop quiz the next day. I told my mum that I needed the telly that night at 8pm for school. I eagerly sat in front of the telly with my revision notes and waited for the programme to start. Bang, the opening scene was a mix of flashing lights and guitar rift. What was I watching? Van Morrison in Concert. The next day we all turned up to Geography and Mr Burton was there, sat on the edge of his desk looking all cool with this smug grin on his face. “Enjoy your revision?” he said. We all laughed. We all sat down and he proceeded to tell us that we’d been working so hard on revising that he felt we needed a night off and to enjoy one of his favourite artists. The lesson went well, and I ultimately achieved a GCSE B (now an 8) in my Geography exam. I remember him fondly.
Senior Administrator in the SIoE