Unsung heroine no more

Derek Bellis

A musical dynamo and a wonderful teacher - so say colleagues and hundreds of pupils who have encountered the affectionate care of Carol Field in the past 30 years.

There is great satisfaction at Ysgol Gwaenynog, an infant school in Denbigh, that she won the lifetime achievement award in a primary school in this summer's Welsh teaching awards.

Head Julia Buckley Jones, who nominated 54-year-old Carol, says: "She's an inspirational teacher. It's not only colleagues and the children who are inspired by her, but student teachers who come here and watch her at work."

To an outsider, the biggest impression created by Carol is her sheer enthusiasm. Perhaps her greatest joy is in being able to combine her love of music and teaching.

"Gwaenynog has always been such a happy school, and I've never wanted to teach anywhere else," she says.

Carol has taught for 30 years at the little school on the hill, and for the same period she has been organist at St Thomas's, the parish church in Rhyl.

She has also led the school choir to a standard described as unsurpassed in Wales.

Carol, a church organist since she was 13 with a passion for classical music and 1960s "golden oldies" hits, studied music before training to be a teacher. She spent two years as a nursery assistant before realising where her future lay, and after qualifying Gwaenynog became her first and only school as a teacher.

Carol teaches five and six-year-olds and, whatever the subject, she finds that music can be the key to bring it alive.

"Every subject can be made more interesting through a song, and it can so often provide an energising break in the middle of the class," she explains.

"Children will also respond, particularly those who may have special needs.

Those with behavioural problems, too, can be helped because music can provide self-discipline and co-operation.

"Ten Green Bottles can help in maths lessons, for instance. Sometimes I just make up a song or a tune. It's important to listen. I tell them 'You're my little friends' - and they understand and respond. If they like and respect you, they'll want to work with you. I believe in high expectations. If you have faith in children then you must inspire them and that means praise and encouragement. Build them up, make them feel good."

One way Carol enhances the "feelgood factor" is by presenting a gold award for particularly good work inside or outside the classroom. The recipient will be placed in front of the class for the presentation - complete with a musical fanfare.

"Never forget to have a sense of humour and to have fun. I've tried to do my best and striven to instil good behaviour, self-respect and respect for others," she says.

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Derek Bellis

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