My Best Teacher - Kacey Ainsworth

21st August 2009 at 01:00
A dance performance and an encouraging teacher set the former EastEnders actress on her career path

Maybe I'm looking back with rose-tinted spectacles, but my experience of Westfield Junior Mixed and Infant School in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire, was fabulous and I remember most of the teachers with huge affection.

Miss Russell-Pavier, my reception class teacher, looked like a right old battleaxe but I thought she was wonderful and can still remember some of the stories she read to us.

Mrs Powell had a reputation for being fair; if there was an issue that needed sorting, she would make sure everyone had their say.

However, the teacher who had the most impact on my life was Miss Connon, who taught me when I was about six. She had a lovely little West Highland terrier that accompanied her to school and was the first person who recognised that I might become an actress.

Every week we stripped down to our vest and knickers to do music and movement in the school hall. We were encouraged to express ourselves by moving to the music although if we just wanted to sit still and drift off into our own little world, that was fine too.

One day, the music had a definite Spanish flavour and I did an imitation of what I thought a Spanish lady might be like. I don't know where I got the idea from but Miss Connon asked my mother to come into school to watch me. She told her that she'd never seen a child of my age interpret music in such a dramatic way and that it must not be allowed to fizzle out.

Once Miss Connon had planted the seed, my parents found a Saturday drama class for me to go to. I'm sure I was too young for them to think I actually might be taking my first steps towards becoming an actress; they probably thought that drama classes might be fun and help my confidence, but in fact my acting career took off far more quickly than any of us bargained for.

My dad worked close to a theatre that was holding open auditions for the West End production of the musical Annie. By that time I'd been having drama lessons for a couple of years and as it was half-term, I went along. Three weeks later I was asked to go back and so my professional life started at nine.

At that point my schooling changed quite a lot. I spent six months of the following three years in the cast of Annie and when I was in the show, I was taught at the theatre by a tutor in a group. It was really good fun but we only ever seemed to study English and history and as a result I've always struggled with maths.

When I wasn't appearing in the show I went back to Westfield, where I quickly settled in again. The whole school had been to see the show and everyone was supportive. In fact, the first time I came across any resentment was at my senior school where it was my teachers who seemed to have a problem with my acting: "You're not on the stage now, you know."

My junior school suited me perfectly because I understood what the boundaries were. The teachers were strict about things like sitting quietly in class but we were allowed to run around like lunatics at playtime and there were always the reassuring dinner ladies to run to.

I can only remember once really getting into trouble and that was when one of the dinner ladies caught me flashing my bum. She threatened to tell my parents but she never actually did.

I'm afraid I didn't have such a good experience at senior school. I found it uninspiring and felt completely squished. I left at 16 to work in advertising until I decided that I really did want to be an actor after all.

I'd managed to save up some money so I gave up my job to go travelling before starting a BA in acting at the Central School of Speech and Drama (pictured), where I regained my love of education. But Miss Connon was the first person to set me on the road to becoming an actress and for that I'll always be grateful

  • Kacey Ainsworth is appearing in `Carrie's War' at the Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London until September 12

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