From education to employment

Teaching heroes – Guiding Lights

Having an impact on your students is one of the greatest achievements for any tutor, and being remembered for helping your students to achieve their dreams one of the greatest accolades. The recently launched information, advice and guidance strategy formalises this role, with tutors given increased responsibility to help their pupils make the education and training choices that will give them the best possible chance of success.

With such a vast array of jobs available and with more emerging all the time, it can seem like a hard task for tutors to advise young people on what route to take. But tutors needn’t do this alone. For example, a new campaign called Guiding Lights has been launched to give young people access to mentors and role models from a range of professions.

On the dedicated Guiding Lights Facebook page, role models from a range of professions share the best careers advice they had from people who inspired and guided them on their path to success. The site allows young people to ask for tips and advice from many different role models, and includes links to a growing list of other sources of valuable careers and mentoring advice – making it a great resource for pupils and teachers alike.

To celebrate the important role that teachers and tutors play in shaping their students’ futures we have asked three of the current education workforce who their favourite teacher was when they were at school and what impact they’ve had on their careers.

Gill Wilson, 51, is an art and design lecturer at the University for the Creative Arts, an FE and HE specialist art and design institution in Kent

“Tez (Terence) Cumming taught me art at Queen Elizabeth’s School in Kent and was undoubtedly my favourite teacher. He treated us like friends, maintaining a calm and productive environment without resorting to shouting, threats and punishments. I respected his expertise and knowledge of his subject and his craft, and the feedback he gave always helped me to develop my perceptive and practical skills. Motivation came from wanting to do better, but he also engendered a desire to please, from the belief that his judgement really meant something.

“My parents weren’t convinced that art was a sensible option if I wanted to get work in the future, but he helped me to legitimise it, showing me how to apply to art school and put my portfolio together.
One of the reasons I was so endeared to him was that I felt he liked me, and cared about me doing well. I try to bring this to the young people I teach and it is one of the most important lessons I learned from Tez.

“I am by no means the only person touched by his influence. I have taught many young people who he has previously taught, and we share our love of him. I was recently sitting opposite a group of children from my old school on the train home, who were talking about him in glowing terms, despite the fact that he is in his second year of retirement.”

Anna Johnson, 31, is a media studies tutor at Hackney Community College in London

“My favourite teacher taught me at my primary school, Park Hill Junior School in Croydon. His name was Mr Colin Spikesman and he taught me in year four, when I was eight years old.
Perhaps I’m romanticising it, but in my head I see him like the teachers depicted in Hollywood films. When he taught me he was new to the school and he was this mysterious man who swept in and changed the school.

“He was so encouraging and engaging, making my eight year old self feel like an individual – a real person rather just another child. He gave me a sense of being and importance which I remember and value to this day.

“As well as being a fantastic teacher in the classroom he nurtured us in other ways, running extra-curricular activities like cricket and chess. He would come with us to tournaments on a Saturday, giving up his weekends and evenings so we could have those opportunities. I ended up playing county cricket having been taught by Mr Spikesman and I honestly would never have achieved that without his help.

“If I could be even half of the teacher that he was then I would be happy. He was the greatest inspiration and I still think of him when I take my classes.”

Ellie Jones, 37, is a careers, information and guidance teacher at Archbishop Blanch School in Liverpool

“My favourite teacher was Mrs Elizabeth John, who taught me French and German when I was at Gateways School in Harewood, Leeds.

“Mrs John was full of praise for everything I attempted. In one lesson, we drew pictures of monuments in Paris and sketched the Sacré Coeur with a white coloured pencil on a piece of black sugar paper. Mrs John effused over my drawing – I was no artist but she told me she thought it was wonderful. Whenever I see the Sacré Coeur I remember my lessons with Mrs John very fondly.

“I also went on a French exchange to Lille when I was 14. Mrs John came with us and stayed with her family close by. There was an incident which involved my exchange father having to claim insurance for something I had broken: I was devastated but Mrs John came to the house and calmed the waters. She impressed the family with her impeccable French, gave me a hug and made me feel much better.

I learned so much from Mrs John, including the fact that praising pupils goes such a long way. By telling pupils how marvellous they are in person, you boost their self esteem no end.
My door is always open and I listen intently to pupils’ problems and queries – encouraging them to think about trying new things. Going the extra mile for kids is why I got into the job in the first place and I thrive on the potential difference I make to their lives. There’s no other job with such satisfaction.”

To find out more about the Guiding Lights campaign visit:

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