When Gareth Morgans was being interviewed for Nantgaredig, the governors were conscious that a well-respected head was leaving. "Do you think you can fill Mr X's shoes?" they asked. Five years later, nominating him for a Teaching Award, they remembered his reply: "I've got my own shoes, thank you." "He didn't tell us," they added, "that they were size 15."
Not true, says Gareth, but he concedes it isn't easy to follow a very good head. "You really do have to be your own person - true to your own beliefs and principles, and true to the team you are working with. I've been lucky; it's worked."
It certainly has. With a scintillating report from the Welsh inspection office behind it, Nantgaredig is seen throughout Wales as a model of good, exciting practice. Awards have come thick and fast - as have grants. A three-school partnership funded by the European Union's Comenius project led to an exchange with a school in Denmark; a "European week" turned Nantgaredig into Europe in miniature, with every country represented and passports issued to parents; a performance of Supermiss, scripted and directed by the head, filled Carmarthen's Lyric Theatre, with every pupil on stage for the finale.
So what's the secret? "Teamwork," says Gareth. Nantgaredig is clearly special: 200 pupils, all taught in Welsh as well as English, two speech and language units for the county as a whole, and (in Gareth's words) brilliant teachers and assistants.
Staff and parents say Gareth's energy may have something to do with it as well. "I don't know what he's on," says one parent, "but whatever it is, I want some." Gareth laughs. "It must be the farmer in me. As kids we were up at six, with farm chores to do before we left for school. The habit hasn't left me."
How does he relax? "With my family; my wife's a teacher too. Drama is important, and I love cooking. I cook cakes for the staff. I think they deserve it. We all do."
Who are we to argue with that?
The national final of the Teaching Awards is on October 26 and will be broadcast on BBC2, Thursday October 30, 11.20pm and Saturday November 1, 4.30pm. Nominations for next year's awards open next month at www.teachingawards.com