Reluctant Ms takes beauty crown

7th May 2004 at 01:00
A pupil poll by a teenagers' magazine has found the country's 'best-looking teachers'. Adi Bloom reports

Jenni Stewart is still slightly embarrassed that she is a regular frequenter of Top Shop.

The 25-year-old geography teacher is not entirely comfortable with the fact that she buys her clothes from the same high-street chain as her Year 9 tutor group at Parliament Hill comprehensive, in Camden, north London.

"I bought a blue jumper at Top Shop and two girls in my group were wearing the same thing," she said. "Now, on a weekly basis, someone will ask me where I got those shoes or those clothes. It's a bit embarrassing. I don't want them turning up in the same clothes as me."

Imitation might be the sincerest form of flattery and Ms Stewart recently received a more public accolade for her dress sense. This month, she was named the UK's best-looking female teacher by the teenagers' magazine Bliss.

She was nominated by a pupil, and beat more than 1,000 equally well-dressed hopefuls for the title. Her prize was a makeover and a photoshoot for the magazine.

Ms Stewart appears in the June issue of the magazine, smiling alongside Danny Price, her male counterpart.

Bliss, which was criticised last month by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers for its explicit sexual content, has produced a six-page spread on pupils' attitudes to school and teachers.

Despite the official disapprobation, the article has had a big impact at Ms Stewart's school, and her pupils reacted jubilantly to the news, chanting and waving copies of the magazine at her.

Meanwhile, Mr Price, a dance teacher at St Joseph's Roman Catholic high school in Bolton, was mobbed by a crowd of 60 teenagers, who spotted him while he sat in the audience at a dance performance.

But he is accustomed to overexcited fans. In between GCSE lessons, he choreographs routines for some of the biggest names in recent recording history, including Madonna, Whitney Houston and Prince. Beyonce Knowles incorporated some of his steps into her MTV-award routine.

Mr Price can earn fees of up to pound;20,000 for working with his showbiz clients.

His casual name-dropping has won him unequivocal favour among his pupils.

But, he said, these star-studded encounters are not without relevance to his work in the classroom. For instance, he advises students to react to an angry teacher the same way he reacts to Madonna.

"If you look in Madonna's eyes when you're working with her, you're going to get it," he said.

"If you don't look in her eyes, you'll be fine."

After tiptoeing around the egos of his dancing divas, stroppy teenagers are a stroll in the park by comparison, he added.

Neither of the country's best-looking teachers is planning to use this new-found status as a passport into the celebrity high-life.

"It's not about vanity," said Ms Stewart. "It's about respect from the students. This lets them know I'm a real person. I'm on their wavelength."

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