Write for the challenge

28th May 2004 at 01:00
At home Louisa Leaman is a petite glamour-puss with a penchant for orange boots and posh make-up.

At work she is a self-styled emotional and behavioural difficulties (EBD) champion, "wrestling with adolescent evil" as a behaviour management advisory teacher for Waltham Forest, north-east London.

And today she tells stories from both lives in the article which scooped first prize in The TES New Columnists competition.

She hopes her new role will promote the values of a job she loves.

"I believe very strongly in the work I do," she said. "This is a chance for me to put my voice across, inject a bit of humour, and encourage people to be more positive in dealing with challenging behaviour."

Bob Doe, TES editor, was impressed by the passion and commitment demonstrated by many of the 200 teachers who sent in entries. "Louisa Leaman's piece is a shining example of this," he said. "It is poignant, funny, and beautifully written.

"Her experience working with children with behaviour problems gives her valuable insight into perhaps the biggest issue facing the teaching profession today."

Ms Leaman, 27, comes from a family of teachers - her Polish father was a long-serving head of Eleanor Smith EBD school in Newham, London - but she only joined the profession because she wanted to be a writer. "I read a book which said that writers hold down full-time jobs because they don't make a living from writing," she said. "The example they gave was teaching and I thought 'Ooh, I could do that'."

After an art history degree at Leeds university, she took a postgraduate certificate in education at nearby Bretton Hall college and taught secondary art for a year before moving into special needs, where she has been for five years.

Teaching has provided an income, entertainment, and a worthwhile career, but she has not been distracted from writing.

She has already had an anonymous article published in The TES Friday magazine, and is 30,000 words into a children's fantasy novel. Her prize money of pound;500 will be split between dental bills and a mini-break. Ms Leaman's winning column is published in today's TES (page 23).

* Runners-up are Jo Ebner-Landy, deputy head of The Hall junior, north-west London; Suzi Hunton, basic skills lecturer at New College, Durham; Amy Johnston, NQT at Tackley primary, Oxfordshire; Dennis King, teacher at Costessey junior, Norwich; Gill Moore, basic skills tutor at Tamworth and Lichfield College, Staffordshire, and Catherine Paver, teacher at Notre Dame school, Cobham, Surrey.

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