Personally speaking - 'A lesson that disappoints stays with you'

9th July 2010 at 01:00

Who has been your biggest influence?

Professionally, my biology teacher, Dr Elizabeth Passmore, who triggered an interest in cell biology that shaped my early career choices. Some years ago I spoke to her on the telephone for work purposes and was slightly star struck.

What was your worst moment in teaching?

I'm probably fortunate that there isn't a single incident that stands out, but I don't think I will forget the feeling of when a lesson didn't go as well as you had hoped it would.

Which pupil are you most proud of?

It's impossible to pick out an individual because young people often surprise you. I certainly remember many pupils who achieved their goals through determination and hard work. Any pupil giving that little bit extra makes you feel proud, and "extra" depends on circumstances.

What is the best advice you have been given?

My father's mantra: "What's the worst thing that could happen?" always helps with decision making.

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

Hopefully, a professional scientist. I looked into a crop science MSc at Birmingham University and careers for molecular biologists with the then ICI (Imperial Chemical Industries) in the North West.

What do you do on a Friday evening?

As little as possible, and certainly no cooking. It won't be a late night.

What car do you drive?

A Mazda MX5. After a serious car accident, I decided to opt for something fun.

Where did you last go on holiday - and why?

Mid Wales. For peace, quiet, castles and to avoid flying.

What was the last book you read?

I'm reading Claire Tomalin's biography of Jane Austen, recommended to me at the Jane Austen museum in Bath. The attention to detail and insight into the period is wonderfully rich.

What is the worst excuse from a pupil you have ever heard?

Any sign of apathy was always difficult to swallow - it reflected their interest level in the subject.

Jenifer Burden taught biology for 13 years and is now director of the National STEM Centre, which yesterday launched its eLibrary, giving teachers swift access to teaching and learning materials. See www.national

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