Miss Woolliter, Mr Flanagan amp; Miss McMahon

26th July 2013 at 01:00
Three teachers - one sporty and enthusiastic, another a fair-minded disciplinarian and the third a glamorous geographer - were all winners in this presenter's eyes

Not one but three teachers were hugely important to me at school. They came to my wedding when I married at 28 which, considering that I left the school at 16, tells you a lot.

Miss Woolliter taught physical education, Mr Flanagan taught religious education and was also head of sport, and Miss McMahon (who was actually a Mrs) taught geography.

It wasn't an outstanding school - it's been pulled down since I left - and the classrooms were at the end of their life. There were few resources and little technology. It was a time when there were lots of teaching strikes and teachers were discouraged from leading extracurricular activities. But these three continued to do loads of them.

Miss Woolliter would drive us all in the minibus to netball coaching sessions after school. Enthusiastic, hardworking and lovely, she had such a positive outlook. She encouraged me to try lots of sports - high jump and athletics, for example - and made me feel special. She told me that I had talent and encouraged me to use it. (She also used to bring Mars bars to the netball tournaments.)

Mr Flanagan, on the other hand, was a real disciplinarian. He was in his early forties, I guess, red-haired, slim, with a moustache. He used to run to school carrying his backpack - and it must have been about 10 miles. He taught RE and coached the football team and was scrupulously fair: if you were good, you were rewarded and if not, you were reprimanded. But it was meted out even-handedly.

He also dressed very smartly and expected us to be proud of our appearance. On one occasion I went to school in a coat he didn't like - my mother had given it to me and it was a long denim garment with a cartoon- illustrated lining. He said that it wasn't "suitable" and told me not to wear it again. It was the only coat I had - although I don't think he knew that - so I had to wear it or freeze. I froze.

Mr Flanagan also had impeccable manners - he was very much a product of his age. But this meant he also thought it was fair for everyone to get their chance to talk.

I was close to him and he did the reading at my brother Daniel's funeral. (Daniel was 15 years old when he died from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.) Mr Flanagan was religious, but in a kind and compassionate way.

Miss McMahon was different again. She was a good teacher - she went on to become a headteacher - but she didn't look at all the way you thought a teacher would. She had long, blond hair, a bit like Farah Fawcett, was in her mid-thirties and wore really high heels. She was very glamorous. And she taught in an engaging way. She was absolutely passionate about geography and made the world accessible to us in concepts we could relate to.

These teachers were all so important to me. They gave me a sense that I could be clever. Nobody in my family had been to university and no one expected me to go.

I think I also encountered these three inspirational teachers at the right time in my life, when I was ready to absorb what they had to show me.

Although they were each very different, they all gave me encouragement and the message that you don't get anywhere just through luck and simply being in the right place. You have to put in the hard yards. Maybe it's a bit ironic that I've become chancellor of Leeds Trinity University - two of those three inspirational teachers trained there.

Gabby Logan was talking to Jo Knowsley

A Good Sport

Gabby Logan (ne Yorath)

Born: 24 April 1973, Leeds, England

Education: Cardinal Heenan Catholic High School, Leeds

Career: Television and radio presenter and recently announced as the first chancellor of Leeds Trinity University

Other facts: Married retired rugby union star Kenny Logan in 2001. The couple have twins called Reuben McKerrow and Lois Maya, who were born in 2005.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today