Tell us about a teacher who had a real impact on your life, either for the better or the worse. How is your life different today because of him or her?
Mrs Knight was my history teacher for four years, retiring halfway through my A-level. Gutted didn’t describe it – I idolised that woman. She was an older lady, whose eyeliner was as sharp as her mind. She gave me homework in Year 9 to read one newspaper or watch one BBC news broadcast a day, a homework that I still complete religiously.
She taught me history, but more important than facts or figures about World War Two or the Industrial Revolution is that she taught me to think critically about information that was presented to me as fact. She showed me how to link events that happened fifty years ago to current events and how to look at both sides of an argument. Although she kept her own political views strictly personal, she encouraged me to have opinions on national issues and taught us how to debate with those that disagreed with me. She was fiercely clever and demanded the best from me at all times, but had a great deal of empathy for when I struggled. She took us to Normandy to show us the D-Day landing beaches and the cemeteries of the soldiers there to help us develop a real sense of what happened there, and, incidentally, kick-started my fascination with medieval history by taking us around the Bayeux Tapestry.
She was funny, she was witty, she was scathing about those that deserved it and she taught me far more than the National Curriculum asked her to. I owe my degree to that woman – she made me love studying history.