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Stamina enough for the long haul

An outstanding maths teacher with a penchant for running marathons has received a lifetime achievement award. Nerys Lloyd-Pierce reports

Eric Evans' favourite fantasy has him running out of the tunnel at the Millennium stadium in Cardiff as the captain of the Welsh rugby team and scoring a try for the home side.

That particular dream might not have been realised, although the Millennium stadium was the venue for a very different triumph when he received the lifetime achievement prize there at this year's Welsh teaching awards.

Mr Evans kicked off his career in the primary sector in 1969. But two years later his passion for maths drove him on to secondary school education in search of greater academic challenges.

"I enjoyed my time as a primary school teacher, but maths is my great love and I saw a greater chance of fulfilment teaching older pupils," he said.

He took on his current post at Dyffryn Taf in Whitland, Dyfed, in 1989.

Lottery wins aside, he says he will probably see out his working life at the school.

As a maths teacher, he often encounters the stock reaction: "Maths, ugh, I hate it." It is that entrenched attitude towards his subject that he has spent his career trying to break down.

"I had a brilliant teacher in my grammar school, and he instilled in me my love of maths," he said. "In the same way, I try to pass on my enthusiasm to my pupils and help them understand what a great subject it is.

"Once you understand the basics, you can start applying it to problem-solving in daily life.

"As soon as my students start doing that, they begin to find it exciting.

Success breeds success in most things, and maths is no exception."

A measure of his ability to get pupils on board lies in the fact that one of them, Catherine Jones, nominated Mr Evans for the teaching award.

In her nomination, Catherine said her maths mentor never fails to give time, energy and encouragement to all his students, regardless of their level of ability.

"I feel very honoured to have been nominated by a pupil," he said.

"Catherine says that my door is always open, and that's something I feel is essential - support and accessibility outside the classroom is crucial."

Headteacher Robert Newsam said: "Eric has an excellent relationship with pupils and staff. They trust him implicitly.

"He is able to keep up with the times and continue to fit in because of his personal drive and commitment.

"He is not just willing to be adaptable to changing times but is happy to be that way.

"He's one of those teachers who stands out. He is a tremendous ambassador for the school, and this award is so well deserved."

By a happy coincidence, it turns out that Mr Evans also taught Catherine's father.

"Having been in the profession so long, it often happens," he said. "It's interesting to have taught students as teenagers and then meet them at parents' evenings where they are concerned about their own teenagers'


But Mr Evans' own children, Sharon, 24, and 22-year-old Jonathan, did not attend their father's school. They were taught in nearby Carmarthen, where the family lives. He thought it would be better for them to be educated at the same school as their friends from primary school - apart from which it is not always easy to be a pupil at a school if one of your parents teaches there.

Aside from maths, Mr Evans is a great lover of the outdoors. He is an ardent follower of Welsh rugby and coaches the game as well as being keenly involved in athletics and cross-country running.

His athletic ambitions have also seen him run the London marathon on several occasions and has completed the race in a very respectable three hours and eight minutes. The next date on his running calendar is a five-kilometre run in the autumn that will help to raise money for the Ty Hafan children's hospice in Sully, Vale of Glamorgan.

But that doesn't mean his major distance-running days are over just yet. Mr Evans last ran the London marathon in 1997, but he still hankers after giving the monster run another shot.

"I would like to think that I have one more marathon left in me," he said.

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