All the teachers at Bishop Ramsey school in Ruislip were lovely, but it was Mrs Holmes who embraced my dream. She taught me maths and was my head of year from Year 7 to 13. She wanted me to be successful in my riding, but also at school. My dream could easily have got squashed if I had a teacher who told me that riding was not a real career. But having Mrs Holmes pushing me in the right direction was a massive help.
Mrs Holmes liked horses herself and we used to chat at break times about our riding lessons, which was really lovely for me.
During my A levels, I would turn up late for lessons in my full riding gear, having had a riding lesson at seven in the morning. Mrs Holmes was very good at explaining my passion to the other teachers, which meant that they didn’t snap at me for being late.
She was like a friend in some ways, but she was still my teacher and there was mutual respect, so if she gave me a deadline, I would make sure that I met it.
In junior school, maths was something that I struggled with and I had to have a tutor. But at Bishop Ramsey, maths quickly took over as one of my favourite subjects. Mrs Holmes’ teaching style was very clear and concise. I found that if I had an issue with maths, even if I was taught by another teacher, I was able to go to her and say: “I have a problem with this topic. Will you please help me?”
'Always smiling, always upbeat'
You could go to her after lessons and she would spend the whole breaktime or lunch hour explaining the issue to you in a precise way, if necessary.
I got an A in GCSE maths; it was Mrs Holmes who helped me to get that grade.
Mrs Holmes was very tall and slim, and her dress sense was stylishly conservative. I remember that she was always smiling and always upbeat. She would demand respect, but with a smile on her face.
Because she was head of year, if a student took advantage of a teacher, she was the one who would come into the class and punish the person. As soon as she walked in, you knew it was because someone had done something wrong. You wouldn’t want to be on the end of a telling off from Mrs Holmes because she wasn’t shy about handing out detentions. I remember her being firm and fair. She wanted to be your friend, but if you took advantage of that fact, she would let you know.
I did A-level maths, but dropped it after the first year, as I didn’t do well in my AS level. Mrs Holmes was still instrumental in helping me to make a success of my other A levels. She asked the headmaster if I could do them over three years instead of two, as I was taking time off to compete in horse-riding competitions and wanted to qualify for the Paralympics.
Now, I keep in touch with Mrs Holmes about twice a year. She has come to some of my competitions and to my home a few times to see my horses. I live and grew up on a 26-acre farm in Uxbridge. It used to be a pig farm before I was born, but now it just has horses.
I have been back to Bishop Ramsey to hand out awards during assemblies, so I catch up with my teachers there, but it’s always Mrs Holmes who I make a beeline for.
Natasha Baker MBE is an ambassador for Dreamflight, a UK charity that changes young lives by taking children with a serious illness or disability on the holiday of a lifetime, without their parents, to Orlando, Florida. For more information, visit dreamflight.org. She was speaking to Adeline Iziren