Bouquet of the week;Fiona White

25th June 1999 at 01:00
Covering for an absent colleague need not be a chore. It can give you the chance to shine in a more senior post and show others what you're capable of, and for the person who is away, there's peace of mind knowing that everything is running smoothly.

Our Bouquet of the Week goes to Fiona White, who helps run an outdoor education centre at the Lee Valley Regional Park. Jane Mansell, youth and schools officer at the park nominated Fiona, her assistant, after returning from a seven-month maternity leave to find everything ship-shape. "Fiona has accomplished far more than was asked of her and I can't thank her enough. I really enjoyed my maternity leave knowing that everything was in such capable hands."

Jane's come back from having her second child to a tidy desk, a diary that's up to date, new projects getting off the ground "and best of all, to Fiona's happy and easy-to-get-on-with personality. Everything is running so smoothly - I feel I've hardly missed anything."

The park is a unique stretch of land and water 25 miles long and a mile wide following the River Lee navigation through London, Hertfordshire and Essex. Donated by Act of Parliament in 1967 for the leisure and recreation of local people, it includes Waltham Abbey, where the centre is based.

When I telephoned last week, Fiona had spent the afternoon dressed as an Augustinian canon guiding a school party through the Abbey and its grounds. In the morning she'd been on a river walk with children, measuring water flows and observing wildlife.

With a degree in plant and animal biology, Fiona previously worked in a small zoo, cleaning out camels, feeding emus and taking lion cubs into schools. Come September, she will complete a part-time diploma in environmental education at Birkbeck College, London.

"I'm so enjoying what I do and I've learned so much from Jane, who was a teacher. It was great being her for a while and I'll miss the money!" A man who's been a key influence on other teachers is Gareth Newman, head of Brookes Weston CTC, profiled this week. He's brought hope to an industrial wasteland at Corby, and achieves terrific results with a truly comprehensive intake. Now the Government wants to tap into his wisdom.

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

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