My best teacher

4th February 2000 at 00:00
I grew up in Edinburgh in a place down by the sea called Joppa. Brunstane primary school was just a ten minute walk away from our house and the teacher I remember best was Mrs Nisbit.

I was in her class from primary 5 to primary 7 and she was really, really strict, but I liked her. She was very tall and she had silver hair cut in a bob. Mrs Nisbit used to give the belt or a smack on the hand, but she never smacked me. I was too scared to be bad, too blooming terrified.

I did my work, I was quite studious and I just got on. She encouraged us to write stories which I liked, and sometimes you had a project to do. I was in every club at that school - the young ornithologists club, badminton and music. I played the violin which was awful, and the piano which I'd like to take up again some day.

Things were still quite formal then. I think we all kept the same seats in class and you weren't supposed to talk to the people you'd been put with. My best friend Caroline was in the class next door because primary 7 had been split up. I've known her since I was three.

I remember the milk they made us drink every day. It was always warm and I hated it but even if you said 'It'll make me sick', you still had to drink it. And sometimes I was sick. I will not drink milk even now.

I wrote a letter to say thankyou to Mrs Nisbit when I first got into television because, apart from the milk, she'd encouraged me. She phoned me up and she said things like 'well done'. She was just the same and I was well chuffed.

After Brunstane primary I went to Portobello High and I still walked to school. We used to cut across the golf course to get there because it was the quickest way. That's when I started doing karate at a hall in Edinburgh. The club moved around a lot but eventually I got my black belt. I liked being involved in lots of things.

At Portobello Mrs Chapman taught me English O-grade and I liked her a lot. She was small with dark hair and glasses and she was strict, but she always had this little grin on her face. She likd fun but there was a limit. You could have a laugh but you couldn't get away with murder.

Later, in Higher English, I had another teacher and I was always arguing with him. Mrs Chapman was great because she let you question things and put across your own point of view, then you'd analyse things from there. She chose some great books for us to study: The Grapes of Wrath, The Glass Menagerie, Streetcar Named Desire and Shakespeare, of course.

After my Highers I stayed on to do Sixth Year Studies. I got a bit bored but I really wanted to be in the final year play. We did the musical Grease and I was Sandy, singing and dancing. It was a brilliant, bonding experience. On the last night it was quite emotional - we'd been together all those years and we were all going to leave and go different ways.

I took a one-year course in media production at Telford College in Edinburgh and then an HND at Watford in visual communication, doing photography and film. Then I got a job as a runner in a production company back in Edinburgh and I learned more in a month than I had in two years at Watford. Work in the media is so hands-on and the technology is changing all the time. I was an assistant producer by the time I came to London and started work in front of the cameras.

I've got really fond memories of school and I'd love to go back.

Gail Porter was talking to Sarah Bayliss


1971: Born in Edinburgh

1991: Studies for HND in visual communication

1996: Moves to London as an assistant producer

1998: Presents Fully Booked, live BBC weekend children's TV programme

1999: Sets up own production company, Heroine, writing scripts for comedy and voice-overs. Poses naked for a men's magazine and comes sixth in FHM magazinepoll of 100 sexiest women. Presents BBC1's Top of the Pops and has late night weekend slot on Virgin Radio

2000: Appears as guest celebrity interviewer on Channel 4's The Big Breakfast. Due to front new programme, That Internet Show, for Channel 4 in April

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