Hayley Westenra

18th May 2007 at 01:00
Two very different teachers, who worked together like an old married couple, helped this 'little squirt' grow up to be a talented singer

I was a bubbly person at school, but also a bit scatty - often late for class and getting detentions for failing to hand in homework on time. I still struggle with being punctual. I was the shortest in my class and my peers called me "Little squirt". I used to dread sports lessons when it came to things such as high jump - the bar always looked so far off the ground.

It's quite hard to choose a favourite teacher because, during my best years at school, I had two. At Cobham Intermediate in Christchurch, New Zealand, our class was taught by two teachers for two years.

Mr Haberfield was deputy principal and would take us for science, maths and music. Mrs Butler took us for English, social studies and drama. I couldn't say which one made the deepest impression on me - they complemented each other tremendously. They knew all the pupils and were caring but firm. We were disciplined but we felt respected.

In some ways they seemed to me like an old married couple. They had been teaching for more than 20 years and working together most of that time. They created a fantastic environment for learning, but there was also a cosy family feel in the classroom.

We went on a lot of school camps with them. Mrs Butler would bring along her baking and Mr Haber?eld would do all the tents. I will never forget the sight of him in his shorts with knee-high socks.

They were passionate about their jobs and knew what they were doing. Mr Haberfield would sometimes give the slackers a hard time, but usually he kept our attention by cracking jokes - he had a great sense of humour. And he would often go off on a tangent, so if we began with physics, we might end up talking about wildlife - he was a lateral thinker. He loved to tell us stories about his animal encounters.

Mrs Butler would control the class in a different way, she could be a lot stricter and was usually more logical.

She was always asking me whether I'd done my homework (expecting me not to have done it). Sometimes she would shout at me for talking in class, as would Mr Haberfield. I never like getting yelled at.

I learnt and improved more with them than any other teachers I had. Mrs Butler got me interested in politics and Mr Haberfield in wildlife. I kept in touch with them both. Every day after class former pupils would drop by to let them know how they were.

I stayed in school just until fifth form and my education suffered in my final year because of all the travelling I did when my singing career took off. I liked maths, but started to fall behind and it was tough trying to catch up. English was my least favourite subject u I hate writing essays. I'm not that great at putting what I think and feel into words.

When my first album came out, I was surprised to see Mrs Butler and Mr Haber?eld at one of my concerts.

Sadly, he died recently and I was invited back to the school to open the John Haberfield Hall.

I'm still in touch with Mrs Butler. The last time I saw her she was picking up Zac, my cockatoo, to look after it because I'm away from home so much and my parents thought it would be wise to give him a new, loving home. Even though I'm no longer one of her pupils, I still had to call her Mrs Butler and make sure that I was on my best behaviour when she came round Hayley Westenra, 20, the classicalpop singer, has released three albums. Treasure, her third, is at number seven in the UK Classical Chart. At 16, she topped this chart with the fastest-selling debut album in its history.

She was talking to Mark Anstead

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