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In the News - Garfield Thomas

Garfield Thomas, 70, is the winner of the RAF Award for Teacher of the Year in a Secondary School, in Wales. He is the oldest teacher to win the category. He started out as a maths teacher in Kent before joining the RAF in 1964 and serving for 16 years. He later went back into schools and last summer retired as the head of ICT at Cardinal Newman School, Pontypridd, where he has taught for the past 23 years. At such an age, in an ever-evolving subject, one could wonder how he continues to stay ahead of the techie geeks in his class.

Come on then, what's your secret?

"The big problem with anyone at any age is that IT moves fast. I have always enjoyed change; I like the challenge. I taught at Tonbridge Wells High School for Boys before joining the RAF. Every three years there would be new aircraft and new technology and we had to learn to cope with the changes."

How do you plan to spend your retirement?

"I have only officially retired full time as head of ICT. I didn't want to lose the commitment to the school, so I'm now the IT technician four days a week. I spend one day as project development consultant with the University of Glamorgan, helping schools and teachers use and improve their virtual learning environments. And I wanted to keep myself active and fit."

So you're still skipping over the school gates?

"I'm lucky I could continue the teaching role so late. Other local authorities don't allow it. It should be about how you feel, not how old you are. And it depends on how fit you keep yourself. I'm in the top three to five in my age group in swimming in the UK. I compete in (national) masters competitions and went to the World Championships in the US in 2006. I thought about it this year, but decided I had too much on."

And who was the secret nominator?

"It was an unknown to me until the judges came to visit the school. A pupil voted, who himself is keen on IT. I have given him and some colleagues the opportunity to look after club activities. I don't necessarily aspire to be the best teacher, but I will do my best in the awards. I'm taking my wife and my 75-year-old brother along to the awards with my headteacher."

When will it be time to log off?

"When I lose my strength and enthusiasm at work, I'll know it's time to retire. When I joined the school in 1980, there were four computers. Now we have 360. The answer is: I don't feel ready yet. At the moment, I can't see beyond the next few years and right now I feel just as capable as I did 10 years ago."

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