THE MAN voted Scottish Teacher of the Year in the Scottish Education Awards last week is no ordinary teacher.
Iain Hirschfeld, 63, who teaches French and German at Inverkeithing High in Fife, doesn't have a permanent contract because of a twist of fate. But his headteacher, Lindsay Roy, is in awe of his drive, enthusiasm and passion for education and nominated him for the Scottish Daily Record gold award.
He will now go forward to the UK education awards.
Early on in his 40-year career in education, Mr Hirschfeld was principal teacher of modern languages at Glenwood High in Glenrothes. When Standard grade exams were introduced, he was seconded to the advisory service, where he held the post of modern languages adviser for 10 years. As the service became more generic and less subject-specific, he enjoyed his work less and less.
Eight years ago, he took early retirement due to ill health. "I had an operation, which cured my blocked arteries. Two weeks later I had a phone call asking, 'Are you available to go back into the real world?'" he said.
Since then, he has been working on a series of temporary contracts at Inverkeithing High and has been very happy.
"I love the subject and working with young people. The advisory service was going in the wrong direction. I love teaching," he said.
His list of achievements is long. He runs the Fife modern languages primary project, which takes secondary teachers into their schools' associated primaries, teaching both French and German, and has been a major factor in raising uptake of languages in S3 from 60 to 90 per cent and more than doubling the number of pupils taking languages at Higher level. He has run school trips abroad; has pioneered work with interactive whiteboards; runs the school chess club and the staff lottery.
He deplores the dismantling of the foreign language assistants' programme, which he feels was invaluable, and argues a strong case for modern language classes to be cut to 20, as has happened for English and maths in S1 and S2.
Mr Roy said: "He is only too happy to share his experience and proficiency with others and is still keen to learn from other people. And the kids adore him."
IN THE PIPELINE
The other award winners (who will be featured in The TESS over the coming weeks) include: Headteacher of the year: Patricia Kennedy, St Mark's Primary, Barrhead Supporter of the year: Kent Pledger, Mid Calder Primary, Livingston Probationary teacher of the year: Laura Cooper, Larbert High, Falkirk Lifetime achievement: Ann McLanachan, headteacher of Longniddry Primary, East Lothian Active citizenship: Corseford School in Renfrewshire, for pupils with complex physical and learning disabilities Local authority: Making a difference award: External spaces team, Fife Council Schools for all: Dundonald Primary, Kilmarnock Healthy living: Wester Hailes Education Centre, Edinburgh; One Scotland: Anti-sectarianism: Earnhill and Sacred Heart primaries, Inverclyde International schools: Woodhill Primary, East Dunbartonshire Better behaviour and attendance: Cumbernauld and St Andrew's primaries BT Scotland ICT learning: Bowmore Primary, Islay Learning and Teaching Scotland Ambition award: Burnhouse School, Whitburn, West Lothian Best enterprise: Mulbuie Primary, Muir of Ord Most enterprising special school: Burnhouse School, Whitburn Most enterprising primary: St Peter's Primary and Nursery, Edinburgh; Most enterprising secondary: Biggar High, South Lanarkshire Employer partnership: Kirkcaldy High MGt Pupil art competition: P1-3, Shona McKenzie, Barcaldine Primary, Argyll and Bute; P4-7, Baillie McEwan, St Mark's Primary, Barrhead; S1-4, Naomi Thoms, Douglas Academy, Milngavie; S5-6, Jennifer Rae, Bannerman High, Glasgow