Welsh minister for education and lifelong learning, Jane Davidson, left teaching because she did not want the Government telling her how to do her job.
Now, as she celebrates her fourth anniversary in office this weekend, she says that her experience at school has helped to shape her vision for education.
"Even in the mid-1980s the curriculum was very prescriptive," she told The TES. "As a young teacher, I wanted to be creative."
She claims that the current Welsh baccalaureate pilot and the new, play-based curriculum for early-years pupils were both born from her experiences.
"I have seen young people fail in the traditional school system but achieve good things outside that, and I want to bring those opportunities together," she said.
"If we don't give young people self-confidence, motivation, aspirations and opportunities they will grow up disenchanted."
The move from formal education to informal learning involving the whole community is a large part of Ms Davidson's 10-year plan for education. She has described the abolition of secondary school league tables and tests for seven-year-olds as proof of her "radical learning agenda".
She insists that she does not want Wales to be different purely for the sake of it, but is proud that, as a small country, it can make changes more quickly.
New responsibilities as she starts her fifth year in office will include bringing the beleaguered post-16 training body ELWa in-house, a decision she describes as "absolutely the right move". Getting national recognition for the Welsh bac will also be a challenge.
"My biggest achievement has been to get Wales to agree to a sense of direction in education," she said. "But I also know that I will be judged by that direction."
ASSESSMENT SUPPLEMENT 11