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Personally speaking - The piano lid incident was outrageous'

Who has been your biggest influence?

Bob Spooner, headteacher extraordinaire, who had a genuine philosophy of education and carried it out. He took risks employing unconventional people and letting us run with our ideas.

What is your career high so far?

Becoming head of the expressive arts faculty at Foxwood School. It was short-lived, as league tables were introduced around that time and the school, packed with the most vulnerable children in Leeds, was blasted to kingdom come.

What was your worst moment in teaching?

There was one French lesson in which no French was taught or learnt. After the pupils left the room I leant against the door frame and let the tears just pour down my cheeks to splash on the floor. All my life I had wanted to be a teacher, and then I felt I was rubbish at it.

Which pupil are you most proud of?

We were discussing prejudice and I was promoting homosexuality as hard as I could (it was much more fun knowing Mrs Thatcher didn't approve) and I pulled Helen up on a homophobic remark. She said: "Well, Miss, you have taught us to make up our minds about things, and we have decided we don't like gays, and that's that." It took courage to stand up to me and in such an articulate and amusing way. It was Helen 15, teacher 0.

What is the best piece of advice you were ever given?

To stop trying to please your mother (sorry, Mother).

What is the most outrageous thing a colleague has done?

Someone from a different discipline was supporting one of my more challenging music classes, and, instead of listening to Matthew and saying: "That's nice, now try playing it again with some more right notes," I found said colleague slowly closing the piano lid on Matthew's fingers.

What would you be if you hadn't become a teacher?

Unimaginable. I was born to be a teacher. I was a barmaid for a few years. That was like being an underpaid social worker. I quite enjoyed that, especially at the Lodestar disco halfway between Blackburn and Preston.

What do you do on a Friday evening?

Work. I sit at the computer in one corner of the living room while my daughters sit on the sofa and talk about their children.

Victoria Jaquiss is a music teacher at City of Leeds School and runs the city-wide youth steel band, Leeds Silver Steel Sparrows, who received the NUT award at the Music for Youth National Festival 2009.

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