Jamie inspires winning ways

15th August 2008 at 01:00
Three inspirational teachers each found their own distinct recipe for success

They are all talented teachers with one more thing in common - they all lifted an Inspirational Teacher Award trophy in the Welsh capital last month. But Rhoda Williams, Jane Pereira and Jonathan Bussy hail from vastly different disciplines.

All three spoke to TES Cymru over the summer about how they go beyond the call of duty to motivate their pupils.

Mrs Williams, secondary teacher of the year, is so committed to her lifelong passion - cookery - that she took some of her pupils to meet top TV chef Jamie Oliver at one of his Fifteen restaurants, well known for taking on disadvantaged young people and turning them into top chefs.

Mrs Williams, head of catering and textiles at Willows High School in Cardiff, is behind what she calls a "life changing" inter-generational project after teaming up with the charity Age Concern.

She invites elderly residents into school to eat a meal prepared and cooked by her pupils. "We partner them and they sit and eat a hot meal together," said Mrs Williams, who was nominated for her award by her headteacher, Mal Davies.

Mrs Williams believes cooking will become increasingly important as healthy eating is made statutory in schools. But she laments the loss of practical skills and questions recent changes in her subject. "There are technology teachers that can teach (pupils) to design things and read labels, but what about the life skills of healthy eating?" she said.

Mrs Pereira, a teacher at Erw'r Delyn special school in Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan, scooped the award for best special educational needs teacher just weeks before her retirement after 26 years in post.

"I had to do a lot of research when I started working with our three to seven-year-olds, who have a huge variation in difficulties," she said. "All our activities have to be multi-sensory."

The introduction of a sensory garden, which Mrs Pereira helped build to replace the school's bare outdoor area, has been a valuable addition. "It was designed for the foundation phase and has mobiles and wind chimes," she said. "They go outside a lot more often now, and there is a bridge so children in wheelchairs can enjoy the garden too."

Although she has now formally left teaching, Mrs Pereira has promised staff she will return as a volunteer to tend the garden.

Jonathan Bussy, Year 6 teacher at Llanedeyrn Primary in Cardiff, won the award for best primary teacher, and was the only winner to be nominated by pupils.

He believes the way he has overhauled maths at the school has made the big difference. "Children and staff hated maths last year," he said. "Now there's a more consistent approach - it's more practical, and resources are more colourful. We have discussions using maths vocabulary. They sit and discuss in little groups, and some of the language they're coming out with now is more complicated."

But Mr Bussy's pupils are just as fired up by his love of music and sport. Their teacher also plays in a band, and after he invited a rock group to the school, eight pupils were inspired to take up playing the drums.

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