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Pupils I'll never forget

A girl at Gina Crowley's primary school taught her that enthusiasm for reading was paramount

It was the early Nineties. I was between babies and working as a supply teacher in County Durham. The pit village I drove to every morning was famous locally among social workers for having one of the highest infant mortality rates in Britain at that time. The people were poor; unemployment was high. And it had one of the loveliest primary schools that I have ever worked in.

The school looked after its community and turned no child away. I taught the reception class for two terms while their teacher was on maternity leave.

Reading was taught through the "real books method", and every day I read with each child in the class. Louise was an enthusiastic and determined reader. Sometimes she sat on my lap in the reading corner, a hand over one eye for the scary bits. Sometimes she sat next to me at my desk, eagerly demanding "the story", or she would later hesitatingly tell it back to me.

As a beginning reader, Louise was about average for the class, but in terms of enthusiasm she was way out in front. She loved books, especially books about cats or naughty boys.

When she discovered that she could read certain words she shouted them at the top of her voice. When I tried to quieten her, she would glance at her classmates' activities with some disdain and say, "but they only doing maffs". I remember Louise because of her fierce enthusiasm for books and what she taught me about the process of learning to read: that both motivation and success are crucial.

But I also remember Louise because she had Downs syndrome. And it made no difference at all. She had no special support in the class and her disability was rarely commented on. She was making excellent progress when I left. I often wonder what happened to her when she was 11. It is rare to find Downs children in mainstream comprehensives, but I hope she stayed with her peers from primary school days.

Gina Crowley teaches at The Cedars special school, Gateshead. Do you have special memories of unforgettable pupils? Write to Sarah Bayliss at the address on page 3 or email

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