Nothing can stop this master chef

27th July 2007 at 01:00
She is head of home economics at Cardiff's Radyr comprehensive. But for the past three-and-a-half years, Lynwen Lloyd (right) has been wheelchair-bound, writes Nancy Cavill.

Doctors blame a mysterious virus picked up while on holiday in South America for her loss of mobility. But the 42-year-old hasn't let it hold back her teaching career.

Lynwen was named secondary teacher of the year at the New Directions Inspirational Teacher Awards in Cardiff on July 6. But judges were not even aware that the nominee could not walk.

"My colleagues didn't put the fact that I was in a wheelchair in their nomination letter and I was really pleased," says Lynwen.

The first sign that something was wrong came when her legs felt wobbly during a practical lesson. She collapsed and was admitted to the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff. The Aberdare-born teacher was hospitalised for six months. "I've never walked since," she says. "I can't feel any sensation in my legs."

Going back to her job seemed impossible at first. "I thought, 'How am I going to be able to do practical cooking in a wheelchair?' But I was just desperate to be myself," she says.

The school made adaptations to accommodate Lynwen on her return. "When it happened the school had one lift shaft and no lift," she says. "Now it has three. I have automatic doors into my area but I teach in a normal classroom because it's not the children who are disabled, is it?"

The school's IT technician visited Lynwen in hospital to talk through how he could ease her return. She now has an optical reader which enables her to use the whiteboard. She can project everything from recipes to pupils' work. Her laptop computer enables her to put digital pictures of pupils doing practical work on the board almost in real time.

The school teaches traditional food science GCSE and A-level courses with the emphasis on cooking skills for life. "I am so lucky to still be able to do it," she says. "It can be frustrating when you can't see if the cheese sauce is bubbling but the pupils lift it down to show me."

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