Andrew Povey joined Beamont community school in Warrington in September 2000 as head of RE.
"First off, don't call me Andrew," he says. "Round here I'm Drew; it makes a difference. I'm 24, I'm Warrington born and bred, and rugby league is in my blood. In fact, it was rugby that started me off as a teacher. I've always loved coaching, I used to do a lot of it at school, and when I went to Chester College I did a sports science diploma - with philosophy. It fitted in with my Christian belief.
"I applied for teacher training - still at Chester - but the PE course was full, so I took RE instead. I had a great school placement at Woolston high in Warrington. I must have been everything most RE teachers are not - rugby player, club singer, part-time bouncer - but the head of RE was fantastic. She understood where I was coming from, helped me to understand it all. Especially the world religions. Even so, the PGCE year was tough.
"Then I came to Beamont. The head took me on because he knew me. Well, everybody knew me. The local rugby side's based here. They wanted someone to set up RE properly. Ofsted had criticised it. My timetable was 50 per cent RE and 50 per cent PSHE. The job description could have been written for me.
"Some people would call it a tough school. It serves three big estates. The kids are the kind I like to deal with. They'll always tell you how it is. They make great rugby players.
"From the start I was head of RE. It needed doing and I was the school's only specialist. I knew I wanted kids to learn from the subject, not just about it. I bought all the resources, wrote new schemes of work. Other staff became involved - now there are 13 of us. Then we began assessing it and recording it.
"On lunch duty I'll walk round with an artefact from a faith - a Hindu god, a Torah scroll or a prayer mat - and talk with the kids about it. Some of them think I'm a sandwich short of a picnic, but it seems to work. RE has taken off; we're starting it at GCSE this year.
"I'm still involved with sport. I still play. I helped with our school's sports college bid, and I run rugby league master classes in Warrington. I coach from 6.30pm to 8pm every evening . We're getting a sports hall and floodlit Astroturf pitches. Everybody benefits.
"I've no regrets. I couldn't imagine doing anything else. I feel that I'm helping kids, making a difference. It's a good feeling, and an experience I'll never forget."
Interview by Michael Duffy.Visit www.teachingawards.com. The Teaching Awards 2002 national ceremony takes place on October 27 in London