Bouquet of the week

20th March 1998 at 00:00
Some people have an extraordinary amount of energy. It's as if they got a double dose when human qualities were being handed out. And if the energy combines with enthusiasm and the person happens to be a teacher, well, the sky's the limit.

Dot Stairmand - a charismatic music teacher at Ilfracombe College, a large comprehensive in North Devon - is one such person. "She's amazing," is the first phrase on everyone's lips when you ask about her.

Mrs Stairmand has co-headed the music department at the college for some years - as well as running its junior music centre, which serves more than 10 primary schools spread out across this rural area.

Sophie Martin was seven when her mother Barbara first took her to the centre. "There was an incredible range of instruments and this teacher who is just full of passion for what she does," says Barbara. Daughter Sophie arrived home with a cornet and now, aged 10, is preparing for her grade 3 exam.

There are keyboards galore at the centre, so Sophie and her friends practise piano skills when they're there. They also sing, do some orchestra work and study music theory with Mrs Stairmand. "We've been to lots of concerts at the college and Dot is just so inspiring and gets us all singing," says Sophie's mother. "When she's dealing with the children she really lights up. You can feel her energy."

It was Barbara who nominated Mrs Stairmand for The TES Bouquet of the Week, but it could easily have been her secondary teaching colleagues. "She never ceases to amaze me," says new headteacher David Humphries, who is thrilled that music is such a strength at Ilfracombe and that it involves so many pupils and their parents. "Things are happening here every lunchtime and after school because Dot has this incredible knack for getting people involved."

He admits to having fallen for her persuasive powers. "Yes, I have been totally humiliated in the nicest possible way by the music department - singing in public, doing a line-dancing demonstration, you know the sort of thing!" But Dot Stairmand has known tragedy. Her only daughter was killed in a traffic accident and in her memory, the family established the Paula Stairmand award - for the Ilfracombe student who brings most light into other pupils' lives. Dot faced another terrible blow last autumn when her husband died suddenly, but her friends and colleagues are even more inspired by her ability to carry on and be positive.

Bouquet of the Week Names, please, on a postcard - and why - to Sarah Bayliss, The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY * Bouquet of the week is given in association with Marks amp; Spencer

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