Mrs Dawson by Lisa Stansfield

The platinum-selling soul singer still channels the lessons in self-belief she learned from a mesmerising drama teacher who died too young

Alongside being a nurse, being a teacher is one of the hardest jobs in the world and you don't get appreciated at all. There's so much pressure. It's a huge undertaking.

Teachers are responsible for the way students' heads are formed. I couldn't do it. If you say the wrong thing, you can mess it all up. I can't even be a mentor on The X Factor. I was asked if I wanted to be and I just said: "No, not really. I have no right to tell anybody how to do anything."

Jeanette Dawson, however, was an inspiration. I went to Oulder Hill Community School in Rochdale, northern England, and she taught me drama. She made us feel like we could do anything we ever wanted. I think that's what teachers should do - use their post and power to make kids feel good, not to make them feel worthless. She wasn't a bully. She'd only raise her voice if you were being an absolute nightmare in class and students were just mesmerised by her. Mesmerised. She would sit in class and smoke those little Woodbine roll-ups. I can picture her now, with her long straggly hair and that incredibly intense look.

Mrs Dawson was one of those teachers who don't follow the doctrine. She did her own thing, taught her own way. I remember every single thing that she taught me to this day. I still use those lessons as I act and perform.

I owe her a lot - I wouldn't know who Edith Piaf was if it wasn't for Mrs Dawson. This was a woman who could do the Sunday Times crossword in 15 minutes flat. She gave me the confidence to better myself and to go ahead and do what I wanted to do. She was the push I needed along the way and that's what I feel teachers should be - that little push that's required to get the best out of you.

She was a very liberal teacher, more so than the others. My geography teacher used to throw a blackboard duster at me because I was useless at the subject. If it hit me on the head he'd shout: "You can't feel nowt, because there's nothin' in that!" I don't know, maybe it knocked some sense into me.

Mrs Dawson died far too young - she was about the age I am now - and so she never got to come to any of my performances. It was very sudden and everyone she taught went to the cemetery. Hundreds and hundreds of people were there. If she could have seen that, she would have said: "My job is done. My job is done."

Lisa Stansfield was talking to Tom Cullen. Her album The Collection 1989-2003 will be released on 10 November. Her latest film, Northern Soul, is out on 17 October. For more information, see

Note perfect

Lisa Stansfield

Born 11 April 1966, Manchester, England

Education Oulder Hill Community School, Rochdale

Career The singer-songwriter and actress won the talent contest Search for a Star in 1980 which launched her career. Since then she has won three Brit Awards, two Ivor Novello Awards and a Billboard Music Award. She has also acted on television and in feature films

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