My best teacher

9th September 2005 at 01:00
I had a really special bond with Mrs Peters, my form teacher at Salcombe preparatory school in Southgate, north London. I must have had dozens of other teachers that I don't remember at all, but I have never forgotten her.

She seemed quite old to me at the time, but she was probably in her late 40s or early 50s and how you'd imagine an old-fashioned teacher to look: short, browny-grey hair, glasses, below-the-knee skirt and blouse. She was very calm and incredibly well spoken.

Salcombe was a small school with fewer than 100 pupils. It had desks in it, but Mrs Peter's classroom was more like a cosy sitting room with a blackboard. At the front was a little fire - it'd be a health hazard now - where she warmed our milk halfway through the day. She listened well and understood that when you're growing up some things are important to you that are easy for adults to dismiss.

Mrs Peters taught us the basics, taking us on trips, even if just to the local park to talk about nature.She was honest with us and very kind and maternal. If you had a cold, she'd put you next to the fire. But she also had a mischievous side.

There was one girl in our class who was always late. Mrs Peters said to her: "If you can make it on time this whole week, you'll be in for a surprise." On the Friday, when the girl managed to be on time for the fifth day in a row, Mrs Peters pretended to faint. It was so funny to see your teacher do that. But she had also brought sweets in for everybody to celebrate the girl's good timekeeping.

Her inclusive approach to teaching was excellent; no one was left behind.

But the thing she gave us more than anything else was self-esteem. She always took the time to talk to us. She would sit with us individually, or we went to sit with her. She created a sense of togetherness in the class that made it fun to go to school. Everybody liked her.

Mrs Peters taught maths, a subject I wasn't good at. Yet with her help I went to the top of the class. In fact, I won the form maths prize that year - the first and last time I was top of the class.

I was rather a quiet pupil, although I read an old school report that said I was a chatterbox. I was a trier. I worked hard at things I wasn't good at, like art and geography. I'd presumed that if you weren't good at something, you'd stay like that. Mrs Peters was the first person to teach me that succeeding was about trying that little bit harder, doing that little bit extra.

Her patience was amazing. A lot of teachers aren't interested in the opinion of a seven-year-old. But if you didn't understand, Mrs Peters would take the time to work with you until you did. Her method was to make things fun so we'd talk about them and understand them. She was always praising us. She was lovely.

I remember doing the English Speaking Board exam for the first time. Mrs Peters had helped me pick a poem and practised with me after school. I'll never forget the first line: "The Cheshire cat was smooth and fat". I got the highest distinction in north London and remember how wonderful it felt to win something, to be good at something.

I saw her as a special auntie, someone I could really talk to and completely trusted. I used to talk about her to my parents, who'd both left school at 16. She's passed away now, but I tell my children about her because I think it's important that they find a special teacher. That kind of relationship can have an enormous effect on the rest of their lives.

Education gallops along after primary school, but I never had the same relationship with a teacher again. Mrs Peters made me believe I could do anything. She made me feel very special.

Karren Brady, managing director of Birmingham City FC, was talking to Marged Richards

The story so far

1969 Born in north London

1974-83 Salcombe preparatory school then Palmers Green high school, Enfield

1983-85 Poles Convent, Hertfordshire

1985-87 Aldenham School, Hertfordshire

1987-88 Sales executive at LBC Radio before joining Saatchi and Saatchi as junior account handler

1988-93 Joins Sport Newspapers. Becomes a director after a year

1993 Appointed managing director of Birmingham City Football Club

1997 Becomes youngest director of a UK plc

2004 Playing to Win, motivational handbook for women, published

2005 Gives backing to Save the Children's Education for Girls campaign, www.savethe

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