Pupils I'll never forget

7th May 2004 at 01:00
Marlaine Delargy learned a thing or two about determination from a teenager with a serious illness

Some 10 years ago I took up a post in Bewdley, Worcestershire, and Vicky appeared in a Year 9 German lesson. She had striking, long red hair and was bright, and an excellent linguist. Her only problem was a congenital heart defect; she was waiting for a heart and lung transplant, but was getting on with life. On bad days she had to use a wheelchair, but usually she just moved a little slowly.

Vicky was keen to go on the German exchange trip. Her mother said it would be fine, and her consultant agreed she could cope with the flight.

My colleague and I were slightly alarmed as we were preparing to board the coach, as Vicky was an interesting shade of blue. "Don't worry, Miss," she said breezily. "I'll be fine." And she was. Best of all, Vicky and her German partner, Anja, became firm friends, and still keep in touch.

I was delighted when she decided to continue German to A-level, and even more pleased when she gained a place at Cardiff University to study German.

Unfortunately, that summer, Vicky became very ill and was unable to take up her place. Some people might have given up and moped at home. Not Vicky.

She concentrated on getting well, then went off to university a year later.

She took up Italian, but ploughed on with her German, sending me the odd cry for help.

Would she cope with the year abroad? Silly question. She had a terrific time in Frankfurt and Parma, got the travel bug and went abroad at every opportunity. She is now working in Europe, a confident and self-assured young woman.

I learned so much from Vicky. She has never given up, never settled for less; she has always looked at what she can do rather than complain about what she can't. Her mother once said she would rather Vicky lived life to the full while she could; being wrapped in cotton wool and living a half life was never an option.

Often, when my own life seems less than perfect, I think of her, pull myself together, and get on with it. Thanks, Vicky.

Marlaine Delargy has taught German for the past 18 years but is now teaching part-time and translating Swedish texts into English. Do you have special memories of unforgettable pupils? Write to Sarah Bayliss at the address on page 3 or email sarah.bayliss@tes.co.uk

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