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'A brilliant student': teaching the next Doctor

Jodie Whittaker's former teachers say she was “an excellent attender”, and – crucially for a Time Lord – was always good with timekeeping

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Jodie Whittaker's former teachers say she was “an excellent attender”, and – crucially for a Time Lord – was always good with timekeeping

This Christmas, Jodie Whittaker will regenerate onto television screens around the world as the first female to take the title role in Doctor Who.

At the same time she will also become the first Time Lord to be educated at an FE college, and the first to hail from Yorkshire (unless you have your Whovian hat on, in which case she irrefutably comes from Gallifrey, a faraway planet in the constellation of Kasterborous).

On landing the prestigious role, Whittaker has said it is "overwhelming, as a feminist" to become the first woman to play The Doctor. But for her former teachers at Kirklees College in Huddersfield, her rise to stardom has come at almost no surprise at all.

Maureen Nowodny, who took Whittaker for her level 3 BTEC national diploma in performing arts, recalls a “brilliant” and fearless student, who would “always be ready to learn, always ready to not hide behind anything”.

"I was Jodie’s dance tutor, and I can’t say it was a favourite lesson – as in it wasn’t really her thing – but she never missed a lesson. She always used it as another string to her bow, or an experience to expand her performing arts."

She adds: "What I remember of Jodie was she was a lovely person to teach. She was very enthusiastic, focused, and wanted to do as much as she could to progress and to be what she wanted to be, and that was an actress, of course. She was really an excellent attender, a timekeeper, and full of enthusiasm for everything that we ever threw at her. She was just lovely, and you could see really from the early days that she would be someone to be reckoned with."

‘An ordinary girl from Huddersfield’

Gloria Appleton, who taught Whittaker acting, said she was quiet and grounded student and a "hard worker".

"I’ve got clippings of her that I’ve kept, paper clippings from the TV times," Appleton says. "I’m always promoting her, saying: 'Oh, you know, she came here, she came here,' as well as Paula Lane who came here as well, who was in Coronation Street for a while."

Appleton says Whittaker's rise has really "propelled" the college. Kirklees College's list of famous alumni boasts an Olympic gold medallist, a radio DJ, a soap actress, and now...The Doctor.

"We're very, very proud and we’re so happy for her success and she deserves it because as I say she’s a hard worker," Appleton says. "I think she just wants to be good at what she does, and she’s an artist. She’s focussed on the arts. I don’t think she was expecting to be as successful as she has been and that’s just been through sheer hard work...I mean you can’t get much better than Doctor Who, can you?"

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