Mrs Powell by Sian Lloyd

23rd August 2013 at 01:00
The weather presenter remembers a teacher who forecast great things for her and encouraged her to aim for the best

I was one of these sickening children who loved every moment of school. Not only was I good academically but I was also deputy head girl. I wrote and performed pantomimes and sang in every single choir, even though I didn't have a terribly good voice. Sometimes I think I peaked at school and it has been downhill ever since.

From 11 to 18, I attended Ystalyfera Bilingual Comprehensive School, near Swansea in Wales, where all lessons except English were taught in Welsh. I started there in 1969 and mine was the first year to go comprehensive, yet the school was run very much along the lines of a grammar school. The headmaster used to waft around in a gown and mortar board.

The teacher who had the biggest impact on me was Mrs Powell. She was my domestic science teacher, as well as being my senior mistress in the fourth and fifth years. She was very old-school and a huge disciplinarian. She wore horn-rimmed glasses that hung round her neck on a gold chain and was always superbly dressed in Chanel-type suits, with hair coiffed to within an inch of its life.

If there was a lick of mascara or a slick of lip gloss on my face, she would send me to the toilets to scrub it off. When I had my ears pierced, I was told off hugely. But Mrs Powell had impeccable manners and never did it in a Cruella de Vil way. She had the charm to make you want to do better for her and that is something I've taken with me in life. I think very few people have that skill.

She strived for quality and excellence in every aspect of life, and that also stayed with me. For instance, she took it for granted, when it came to the Oxbridge entrance exams, that I would try for Girton College, Cambridge, because she always said I should aim for the best. When I received the letter to say I had got in, she was one of the first people I told and she was utterly thrilled. In the end, I never went to Girton. I was so young that they wanted me to hang on a year. I didn't want to, so I went to Cardiff University instead.

Mrs Powell used to say that she wanted the best for her girls, which sounds very like Miss Jean Brodie.

I still remember some of the things she taught us. I bake my scones with buttermilk, not ordinary milk, and I always make homemade jam.

Four or five years ago, I went back to the school and was told by my former English teacher, Mr Wyn - another brilliant teacher, I might add - that Mrs Powell thought our year was the best ever. I was so touched by that. Sadly, I had heard through her son that she had died. I know she followed my career and was very proud. I thought she was wonderful.

Were I prime minister, the first thing I would do would be to double the salary of teachers. They're so influential and, as the UK advertising campaign said, they really do stay with you for life.

Sian Lloyd was speaking to Kate Bohdanowicz. Lloyd supports the Stroke Association, a charity that believes in life after stroke. Visit stroke.org.uk, where you can sign up for one of the nationwide Step out for Stroke walks

SUNNY OUTLOOK

Sian Lloyd

Born - 3 July 1958, Maesteg, Bridgend, Wales

Education - Ystalyfera Bilingual Comprehensive School; Cardiff University, where she read classical studies, Celtic and English; Jesus College, Oxford

Career - Weather presenter and television personality. Lloyd is backing a fundraising initiative to reinstate the Celtic chair at Jesus College, Oxford. It is the only professorship in Celtic at an English university.

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