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Teaching awards 2001

Rachel Hirst of Starcross primary school, Exeter, Devon

Regional winner

Outstanding new teacher in a primary school, South-west

Citation

Described by her deputy head and mentor as a "shining example of all that is best". She took on a tough class of Year 34 children and after weeks of hard work raised their self-esteem, taught them to respect each other and to believe in themselves.

Background

Biology degree at Bath University. "Helped out" at her local primary school during her holidays, decided to "have a go at training" and went to Rolle college in Plymouth.

Turning points?

Deciding to train, doing her final placement at Starcross and getting her first job there, two years ago. "It's fantastic. You get a feeling for it immediately. Everybody works well together."

Most proud of?

"The way the weaker children have tackled maths. Last term in technology, for instance, they made torches using metal foil and split pins for the circuits. And I'm proud of the model of the digestive system we made. I wrecked my mother's Hoover to make an alimentary canal but it was brilliant at sucking up chocolate flakes."

Greatest regrets?

"None. I'm happy and know I'm moving forward all the time. It's a rewarding job. But I worry that fewer and fewer people seem to want to do it. Perhaps it's because they don't understand what teachers do."

Any advice to other new teachers?

"You need a lot of energy, flexibility, the ability to get on with other people - and a sense of humour."

And if you win a national title?

"I'd be pleased - especially for my mentor. He was always there but never pushy - one of those people who make you feel you're doing it right."

Rachel Hirst was talking to Michael Duffy. The national finals of the Teaching Awards will be held in London on October 28. www.teachingawards.com

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