American beauty was in a class of her own

24th November 2000 at 00:00
Pupils at a school in Honolulu have been 'three feet off the ground' since their

hula-dancing teacher was crowned Miss America. Amanda Kelly reports TEACHER-recruiters spend millions trying to give the profession a more glamorous image. But Angela Perez Baraquio has managed it on her own.

"Miss Angie", as she is known to the staff, parents and pupils of her school Honolulu, has just been crowned "Miss America".

Last month, Ms Baraquio, already the reigning Miss Hawaii, beat off competition from a Louisiana law clerk to scoop the national beauty title.

The 24-year-old PE teacher from the Holy Family Catholic Academy wowed judges at a pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey, with her beauty, charm - and a lively performance of the hula dance.

But she made it clear that she is far more cerebral than many beauty queens, revealing plans to complete a master's degree and possibly work in educational administration.

Critics of beauty contests will wish she had stayed in the gym, but her pupils were thrilled by her success. "Since that evening, all the kids have been three feet above the ground," said Tony Boquer, principal of the 500-pupil school, which Ms Baraquio also attended as a child, along with her 10 brothers and sisters.

On the day of the pagean, organisers set up big-screen televisions on the basketball court so pupils and parents could cheer her on.

The school has since been forced to hire two extra teachers to fill in for Ms Baraquio while she completes the many duties that come with her new title. But Mr Boquer confirmed he was keeping Ms Baraquio's job open for her and that pupils were expecting a visit from their famous teacher soon.

And, as if Ms Baraquio hadn't done enough to boost the profession's celebrity status, another teacher this week mingled with Hollywood's finest at the show-business do of the year.

As actress Catherine Zeta Jones tied the knot to big-screen star Michael Douglas in a glittering ceremony at New York's Plaza hotel, the headteacher who first set her on the road to stardom was high up on the guest list.

Aled Thomas, her former headmaster at Dumbarton House, an independent school in Swansea which closed in 1993, spotted her talent at a young age.

He encouraged her to abandon her O-level studies to take up a role in a touring American musical that would allow her to earn an Equity card instead. "It was a very big decision for her to make but I told her she was going to end up being a star, not a professor or a brain surgeon," he explained.

Leader, 16

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