Nerys Lloyd-Pierce discovers why the pupils of Wales's secondary teacher of the year think she is a real class act
Having been in the profession for 17 years, drama teacher Ruth Williams feels it is important to remind herself of how it feels to be a pupil. So she recently took up the clarinet, and often takes her place alongside pupils as they play in the school orchestra.
"Learning is important to keep you fresh as a teacher, and it helps you to empathise with your students," explains the winner of the Guardian award for secondary teacher of the year in Wales.
Mrs Williams, who was brought up in Brecon, says she cannot remember a time when she did not want to teach - her ambitions reach as far back as her early years at Sennybridge primary school.
Her parents' enthusiasm for the theatre, combined with the attitude of her next school - Wentworth college in Bournemouth, Dorset - inspired her to combine her twin passions and pursue a vocational four-year degree in drama and education at Exeter university.
A drama teacher at Bishop Gore comprehensive in Swansea for 15 years, she has seen many of her pupils continue their studies at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and the Welsh College of Music and Drama. "Enough successful careers to keep me in theatre tickets for life," she jokes.
Her most notable protege, Daniel Hawksford, recently performed on Broadway in the award-winning play, The Pull of Negative Gravity. Mrs Williams travelled to New York to see it.
But she says: "I get just as much of a buzz seeing the less-able engage with drama, and watching their self-confidence grow. So many of the skills learnt in the drama class are transferable to daily life - confidence, creativity and imagination."
Headteacher Peter Wilcox says: "Ruth invests a great deal of herself in the children. She has an outstanding ability to motivate pupils who are not academically successful and to help them shine."
Former pupil Carl Neale, 17, who nominated her for the award, admires her ability to bring lessons to life.
"Only her drama classes kept me going to school. To the students she isn't just a teacher, she's a friend. You can have a laugh in class, but you are still doing the work and getting the grades."
Mrs Williams, who is married and lives in Mumbles, Swansea, is reticent about singing her own praises, but says: "I strive to listen to my pupils.
I also love what I do, and I think that comes across."