Personally speaking - 'A bear was there and I was bare, too'

1st April 2011 at 01:00
Lesley Sleight is head of life skills at the Queen Elizabeth II High School on the Isle of Man. Her pupils won the Citizenship Foundation's Giving Nation award, for which she led them on a trip to the Gambia to report on sustainable agriculture

Who has been your biggest influence?

Charles Burton, a British explorer who was a member of the first expedition team to circumnavigate the globe from pole to pole with Sir Ranulph Fiennes - a great inspiration.

What is your career high so far?

I am lucky to have had many highs in my career, including gaining a Churchill Fellowship for youth expeditions and completing remote independent expeditions with my pupils. They are often the first youths to journey into remote areas such as Greenland and the Queen Charlotte Islands.

What was your worst moment in teaching?

During a school expedition to British Columbia, I heard a cry of alarm outside my tent early one morning. I rushed out and watched a bear take a rucksack out of the hands of one of the pupils. After watching it run off with the bag into the bush the pupils turned and were then faced with a bare me.

Which pupil are you most proud of?

There are so many, many pupils. Particularly those who take an active role in the school community and help with charity work, environmental projects and voluntary work. There are also the disaffected pupils who have gone on to further education after gaining confidence from involvement in expedition and Duke of Edinburgh award work.

What is the best piece of advice you have been given?

Take every opportunity you can.

What would you be if you hadn't become a teacher?

I would have liked a job with the British Antarctic Survey team, but at the time of applying they didn't take women.

Where did you last go on holiday - and why?

To the Gambia with six students - we were winners of the Citizenship Foundation's Giving Nation award. The team joined the charity Concern Universal and spent a week in February as investigative journalists reporting on how global facts are affecting people in the Gambia.

What was the last book you read?

An African in Greenland by Tete-Michel Kpomassie.

What is the worst excuse you have ever heard?

"I can't do games today as I have just had my ears pierced and I'm not allowed to get them wet."

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