My best teacher

20th August 2004 at 01:00
I ran away from Healey primary school three times because I was bullied for being small. But, by the time I got to Batley girls' grammar, the bullying stopped - even though at the age of 11, I was still only 4ft 1in and was the smallest girl in school until I got to the fifth form.

I really enjoyed my schooldays from then on. I palled up with a girl called Marilyn who was being bullied because of her lovely red hair. I empathised with her plight and we were best friends right through school, and have remained friends.

I have fond memories of two teachers: one who was inspirational and whom I would describe as my best teacher, and one who was my favourite.

Miss McLennan, who taught French, was passionate about her subject and cared about her pupils, whom she referred to as "her girls". She insisted that we have a French name, which had to be embroidered in red on a pale blue sash worn over our white blouses and red sweaters. I chose Jeanette, which made my mum cross because it was long and she had to do the embroidering.

Miss McLennan brought in French magazines and newspapers for us and organised the school exchanges. I went to Lille and had a French girl back.

Miss McLennan was Scots, so I spoke French with an accent that was a mix of Scots and Yorkshire. On one exchange I went to a christening party and met a French woman who taught English and she said she found me much easier to understand than most English people because of my broad vowels.

I suppose she was probably in her mid-fifties, but to me Miss McLennan seemed terribly old. It was rumoured that she was the first person in the UK to have a perm because she had so little hair and what she had was in patches of red where she had dyed it. But she was a good teacher and she inspired me to do French up to A-level and then at university.

My favourite teacher was Elizabeth Burroughs, who taught music. I wasn't good at music but, because of Miss Burroughs, I went on to do it at A-level. I played piano and sang. I tried to learn the violin but was hopeless.

Miss Burroughs was a lovely lady, gentle and genteel. She was pale, with a pale skin and pale hair and looked fragile. She was a wonderful pianist and her lessons were interesting. I'd started playing the piano when I was five or six and, in my last two years at school when other people had paper rounds and Saturday jobs, I earned my pocket money by giving piano lessons.

Miss Burroughs introduced us to a wide range of music. I'd never heard opera before and I became a fan. I hadn't listened to much modern classical music either. We studied jazz and pop, including the Beatles who were very big at that time. She took us to concerts. I remember seeing John Barbirolli conduct the Halle Orchestra in Manchester and the D'Oyly Carte company perform Gilbert and Sullivan in Bradford. Miss Burroughs created a joint operatic society with Batley boys' grammar, and I was in that.

I kept in touch with her but she died a few years after I left school.

My parents were retailers and I'd learned the work ethic from them. I was conscientious about homework and became a prefect.

I read French and English at university because they were my best subjects, but I left school without any idea of what to do. I remember having a conversation with the careers mistress and telling her I'd like to be a university lecturer. Her response was: "I don't think you'll be able to do that, you're not bright enough." The irony is that, although I went into marketing, for seven years I lectured at what is now Manchester Metropolitan University, so she was wrong.

Dianne Thompson, chief executive of Camelot, operator of the National Lottery, was talking to Pamela Coleman

The story so far

1950 Born Batley, Yorkshire

1954-58 Manorfields infants' school, Batley

1958-62 Healey county primary, Batley

1962-69 Batley girls' grammar school

1969-72 Degree in French with English at London University

1972-74 Marketing trainee

1974-79 Export and marketing manager, ICI

1979-86 Lectures at Manchester Polytechnic, now MMU

1997 Joins Camelot as commercial operations director

2000 Appointed chief executive of Camelot, named businesswoman of the year, becomes fellow of the RSA

2001 onwards President of Chartered Institute of Marketing

2003 Honorary degree, Oxford Brookes University

2004 Tenth anniversary of the launch of the National Lottery

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