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Bouquet of the week

Friday magazine is one term old, and this week we send bouquet number 13 to another unsung hero of the classroom. Teachers are a modest bunch and the best will often insist they're no different from their hardworking colleagues.

Well, I've talked to quite a few stars this term, and to the people who've nominated them. What's cheering is that they all recognise that individuals can make a big difference and they know the value of praise. Schools are good at celebrating children's success and they can feel good about adult recognition too.

At Lipson Community College in Plymouth, many people want to celebrate the work of Brian Howard. He's a history teacher, a pastoral head and much more. For starters, he runs three residential trips each year (A-level history visit, French exchange, Dartmoor residential).

Brian also runs Lipson's Year 11 football team, manages the Plymouth Schools Under-15s, and is fixtures secretary for the Plymouth Schools league. He founded a youth club 13 years ago which is one of the most popular in the city, and is treasurer of the Lipson Association (PTA).

"To organise three trips a year plus everything else requires incredible skill and stamina," says Lipson principal Steve Baker. "Brian is one of the most child-centred teachers I've ever met - he does it for the love of teaching. He would never seek recognition for himself."

Brian explains: "I started teaching 25 years ago and I've always done it this way. By getting involved with the students, you get to know them better and they respond to you as a person, not as 'Mr Howard'."

His advice to young, new members of staff is always the same - get involved. "It reaps dividends in the classroom and helps so much with discipline." He tells of one young teacher who was having a hard time but who took his advice and started coaching a school football team, then joined the school rock band. The teacher's life changed - pupils knew him differently and he started to enjoy it.

Brian, who used to play for Devon under-18s, will be 50 this month and still hasn't hung up his boots. A memory he treasures came in 1989 at Old Trafford, home of Manchester United, when his Plymouth schoolboys reached a semi-final against Salford. "We were told to look out for their captain. He was in a class of his own, and scored three goals." Brian's still got the video of that amazing schoolboy - Ryan Giggs, then aged 15.

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