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National Teaching Awards 2004

Michael Duffy meets the regional winners. This week: Patricia Hallett, winner of the lifetime achievement award in the south of England

It's 40 years since Pat Hallett left the Hebrides, but she still has the distinctive lilt of the islands in her voice. She cherishes, too, the memory of the women who shaped her future: her widowed mother who fed her and her siblings with stories; and the teacher at the infants' school in Stornoway, "Miss Bell Morrison, teaching each one of us that we were special", who "filled her teaching with love".

It was due to Miss Morrison's influence that Pat Hallett decided to train as a teacher, and not take up the place she'd been offered at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music. "I have never regretted it," she says. "Wherever I have taught, I have found happiness and fulfilment."

Her husband's career has taken her all over Scotland, to the United States, to Hampshire and now to Berkshire - seven or eight schools in all. She has been, at her own insistence, "just a classroom teacher. I wanted to be with the children. It's what I still want to do. It's my calling."

Her present school is Fox Hill primary in Bracknell. "Three schools ago, the head had been my student when she was an NQT. She kept on asking me to join her."

Parents nominated her for the award. The judges, listening to the Hebridean stories that for years she has written for young children, found her "a tremendous inspiration". Unsurprisingly, they reported that every child in her class had a special role: there were singers, actors, readers, even class jokers.

Her regional award is, she says, the last thing she expected. "Teaching isn't about the limelight, and I'm not special. I try to be like Miss Morrison - to build the love in first. Respect and learning follow."

She still has no regrets, except perhaps to wish there was less paperwork in modern teaching. After 41 years, she still looks forward to the first day of each school year "and the anticipation in the children's eyes. It's as if they're saying, 'I want to learn. Will you help me?' I just find that so exciting."

The final of the Teaching Awards will be held in London on October 24 and will be broadcast on BBC2 the same day. Nominations for next year's awards are open at www.

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