Mr Henderson

28th June 2013 at 01:00
The glamour model and anti-bullying campaigner disliked school but adored her motorbike-riding, God-fearing English literature teacher

As a little girl, I wanted to be a lawyer or a veterinary surgeon. But although I took a completely different direction - finding fame, fortune and sometimes controversy in television reality shows and on the pages of newspapers and magazines - I really don't have any regrets. I have "what ifs" but I wouldn't change anything.

I was unhappy at school, where I was badly bullied. But there was one exceptional teacher at Brentwood (a private school for three- to 18-year- olds in Essex, southeast England), a teacher who broke the mould.

Mr Henderson was my English literature teacher and we all thought he was the best teacher in the world. Everyone in his class got an A, even the students who struggled in other subjects.

He was passionate about the subject, which made it interesting for us. Once he got us to write key notes on little index cards in the smallest writing we could manage. We saw it as fun and a challenge. And everything we crammed on to those tiny cards stuck in our brains. To this day, Macbeth is my favourite play.

But he also cared about us as people. I'll never forget when my uncle died. Nobody at school asked how I was or offered support. I don't think they knew what to say. But Mr Henderson took me to one side and gave me a card in an envelope. It was a condolence card with such lovely words. And he told me that if I wanted to sit in the classroom alone and cry that was all right.

Three things stick in my mind about Mr Henderson. First, he rode a motorbike to school - a Honda Fireblade, I think it was - and turned up in black leathers, roaring up to the gate. We thought he was just so cool. Then he would change into his suit. It was funny, because he was quite conservative - he was probably only 35 but we thought he was really old. But we loved the motorbike.

Second, he was quite religious. But the way he mentioned God quite casually made God seem cool. He didn't preach. It was just as if God was an everyday part of his life.

Third, he used to spend every holiday in developing countries, helping out charities. He would come back with really interesting stories. I've always had a strong sense of justice - I used to tug at my mother's coat to get her to give money to beggars - but I think that was strengthened by Mr Henderson, and the kind of things he said and did. We wished that all our teachers could be like him.

School wasn't a happy place for me. But Mr Henderson was great. We all wanted to do well for him, to impress him as he impressed us.

I think the most important thing I learned from him was that if kids are shown care and respect they will be able to accomplish things. It's such a simple message.

Mr Henderson made us all feel happy and safe. And I think he would be proud of what I've achieved. I believe things happen for a reason. When times get tough I have prayed. And I pray now, to say thank you for what I've got.

I guess it was Mr Henderson who gave us the message that it was OK to do that.

Jodie Marsh is a bodybuilder, glamour model and anti-bullying campaigner. She was speaking to Jo Knowsley

A LIFE IN THE SPOTLIGHT - JODIE MARSH

Born: 23 December 1978, Essex, England

Education: Brentwood School, Essex

Career: Media personality, glamour model, bodybuilder and anti-bullying campaigner.

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