My best teacher

Martyn Palmer

The Oscar-winning actor says he had a great childhood, and school was part of that. It was there that he learnt he was too good to be bad

I went to a great school - Terrell High in Texas - from when I was 14 until I left at 18 to go to college to study music. I had a great childhood and school was part of that. I loved playing sports at school. I played football, basketball, tennis and did track, too. I played quarterback and would have loved to have made it big, just like every other kid in America, but I was too small. My favourite subject was maths, I guess I had a knack for it. I liked English and music as well.

I had two great teachers. Actually, they were principals. Gilbert Willie at middle school and Herman Furlough at my high school. I think they both taught maths but I remember them because they gave me great advice and I respected them.

This crazy stuff was going on at school and if I got into trouble, one of them would take me into the office and sit me down and just say, "You're too smart for this." Or it would be, "You're not like Joe Schmo, you got something going for yourself. If you decide to do bad things, I'll show you the results."

At that time we had paddlings at the school. What's a paddling? Well, you would get hit with a paddle, a swat we used to call it, if you got into trouble. And if you did get into trouble, you knew what was coming. Mr Willie would pass out some advice and a swat and Mr Furlough would sometimes just pass out the advice without even bothering with a swat or two.

And you know, getting a talk from Mr Willie or Mr Furlough was more effective than a paddling, because often you would feel so bad that you had let them down, you would pull yourself up and try to be a good student.

Both of those teachers were very important to me and still are.

When I go back to Terrell I go to see them and it's incredible, it's like I'm a pupil again. I have so much respect for them because they taught me how to be a man, how to be a gentleman and they helped form the person I am today. I'm not saying they saw anything special in me - you would have to ask them - I think they saw potential in all of us. They saw something good in everyone and I think that speaks volumes about a person's character.

A great teacher - and both of them were great teachers - can relate to and talk to a kid who may not be going to high places, maybe he's destined to work down at the local store, but they can still give great advice. And that's what those two did. They treated us all the same and I bet if you asked any of the guys taught by them, they would say the same thing - those two teachers cared about us all and I'll never forget that Oscar winner Jamie Foxx started his career as a stand-up comedian and a musician. His films include Any Given Sunday, Collateral, Jarhead, Miami Vice and Ray, a biopic about Ray Charles which earned him an Oscar for best actor. His latest film is the musical Dreamgirls in which he plays the manager and Svengali of a Sixties-style girl group, starring alongside Beyonce and Eddie Murphy. The film is released in the UK this week and has received eight Oscar nominations. Jamie was talking to Martyn Palmer.

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