Prize catch for teacher who turned languages into a ferry good career

20th November 2009 at 00:00
Former Brittany worker who developed a passion for French and Spanish on the docks wins boat trip to France

When sally Mitchell decided to jump ship from her previous career at Brittany Ferries to become a primary teacher, her plans coincided with a swell of interest in teaching languages.

Mrs Mitchell, 44, who speaks French, German and Spanish, got her first job at St Luke's CofE Primary School, Bournemouth, four years ago, and became modern foreign languages co-ordinator, helping colleagues introduce them across the school, running a lunchtime club and co-writing schemes of work with the local language college.

Now her hard work has won her the title of primary language teacher of the year. And the prize? A trip to northern France with 30 pupils and five adults.

"I do hope it is by ferry," said Mrs Mitchell, whose previous role was co-ordinating cargo at Poole docks. "It's more exciting. You really feel like you're going abroad when you leave our shores."

Mrs Mitchell went to work at Brittany Ferries after studying linguistics and French with German at Sheffield University. She met her husband there and wanted to return home to Dorset and find a job in which she could use her languages. She found herself in a busy control room, where it was usual to speak three or four languages.

"I did it for 16 years," she said. "It was strange hours - all nights and early mornings. The ships came in and we would speak to the crew over the shipping-channel radio. We'd import cheese from France and oranges from Spain and export shellfish and steel. The crews didn't speak English."

Mrs Mitchell had three children, and as they started school, she started to help out and became interested in the job, particularly as her mother was an art teacher and her sister is also a primary teacher.

"I looked into it, but the nearest place I could train was Bath," she said. "Then Bournemouth set up a Scitt (school-centred initial teacher training), so I could do it."

The Primary Language Teacher Award is run by La Jolie Ronde and Scholastic. The winner also wins #163;1,000 of La Jolie Ronde resources and #163;1,000 of Scholastic books.

The runners-up were Helen Berry, of Salisbury Road Junior School, Plymouth; Gill Leciester, of Dean Valley Community Primary School, Bollington, Cheshire; and Maria Martinez, of Claycots School, Slough.

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