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Inspiration plain sailing for winner

A two-year family sailing trip is the secret of Plato winner Tabitha Sawyer's success, she says.

Mrs Sawyer, 38, who was named Outstanding new teacher at last week's Teaching Awards at Cardiff's City Hall , says the voyage seven years ago inspires many of her classroom activities at Ysgol Emmanuel in Rhyl.

During the journey she taught her two children, Christina and Daniel, then aged eight and six, aboard their yacht. She enjoyed it so much that on her return she left her career in travel agency management to retrain as a teacher.

She says: "The key moment for me was seeing that amazing expression on the kids' faces when something goes click, and they get it. The feel-good factor associated with that never goes away, and it's one of the things that spurs me on as a teacher."

Now teaching eight and nine-year-olds, Mrs Sawyer likes to bring the wider world into lessons. "We are making contact with schoolchildren throughout the world, as I feel it's important for my pupils to realise that they play a part within a bigger picture," she says.

"I also think an understanding of how other cultures work helps prevent intolerance."

Next Tuesday, Mrs Sawyer and a contingent of pupils will be delivering laminated cut-out teachers to 10 Downing Street, as part of a Make Poverty History project, highlighting the fact that developing nations need 15 million teachers.

At home she works hard at bringing the school and the community closer together, for example, via a joint recycling project.

She describes her school as a tight-knit unit where teachers can expect support and backing for their endeavours.

"A school is more than one person, and you can't achieve very much unless there's a positive team spirit in the place," she says.

Darren Martin, headteacher, says: "She is one of the most outstanding teachers I have ever had the privilege of working with.

"She came into the job with her eyes wide open. Our school is on the fringes of one of the most deprived areas in Wales, and she has challenging children in her class. But she tailors her methods to suit the needs of each individual, so she can reach all children, and they love her to bits."

Mrs Sawyer believes in constantly setting goals. Her next challenge, which she aims to achieve before she's 40, is to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, and raise money for Kenyan schools.

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