My best teacher

Pamela Coleman

I had several influential teachers, but Keith Sagar sticks out in my mind. He taught French and German at my secondary comprehensive on Merseyside.

I remember my first lesson with him. It was my first year at Formby high school and he was standing in for another teacher. He walked into the classroom and took the whole lesson in German. We didn't use a textbook. He just pointed at various things and said the word for them in German, and talked away and asked us questions.

I think quite a few teachers teach that way now, but in those days it was a departure. It was an interesting method of learning a new language and I remember thinking at the end of the session, "That was different."

We never had another lesson like that. Subsequent ones were more orthodox, but Mr Sagar was an inspirational and encouraging teacher. He taught me French at O-level and A-level and German at A-level. They were subjects I loved, so I worked hard, but there were quite a few people in the O-level classes who weren't at all interested in languages.

We had vocabulary tests every week. I was a bit of a swot and got good marks. Mr Sagar really wanted you to do well and seemed genuinely pleased when you did. He loved his subject and tried to make lessons interesting.

I remember once, we went into the language labs for listening comprehension, he played us French music and asked us to transcribe the lyrics. I'd never heard French music before and thought it was great. I was a bit of a Francophile by that stage and had persuaded my family to take a couple of holidays in France.

Mr Sagar was quite young, in his early to mid-twenties, and probably in one of his first teaching posts. He was very tall with wavy hair and rather studious. He was quite a private person who struck me as a really nice guy, and I could understand his frustration with those students who couldn't be bothered to learn.

My best friend Judith and I were the only two to study German at A-level and it was a time when there were a lot of teachers' strikes going on, so we had to work hard and take extra lessons in the holidays. Mr Sagar treated us like young adults, more like first-year university students than schoolgirls, and one day even let us go home early.

When Judith and I went into school to get our results, he was already there, having taken the trouble to find out how we'd got on. He was obviously extremely pleased that we had both got A grades. You could tell he got a lot of satisfaction when his pupils did well.

I went on to study French and German at Bristol University before taking a postgraduate broadcast journalism course and going into local radio and television.

A couple of years ago I was invited back to the school to hand out GCSE and A-level prizes. It was a strange feeling, but I was pleased to see Mr Sagar again and he seemed pleased to see me. He didn't appear to have aged at all. Twelve years after I had left, I still didn't feel I could address him by his first name. I just said "hello".

TV presenter Kate Sanderson was talking to Pamela Coleman


1968 Born in Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire

1985 Gap year, working as an au pair in Paris

1986-90 Studies French and German at Bristol University

1991 Postgraduate course in broadcast journalism at Bristol

1991-92 Reporter on Radio 210 in Reading

1992-97 Reporter, local radio and television

1997 onwards Presenter on Newsround, BBC Television

1998 Presenter on Holiday, Record Breakers and Electric Circus, BBC Television

2000 Hosts Against all Odds, highlighting children who have survived extraordinary episodes

2001 Presenter on Watchdog Healthcheck

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Pamela Coleman

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