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Year of altitude, TV and furry slippers

Teachers blazed a trail over the past 12 months and not necessarily in the classroom. Philippa White reports

A RECORD-BREAKING lesson from Everest, a desert-island marooning, and a furry animal slipper cull are just some of the ways teachers hit the headlines this year.

Physics teacher Chris Mothersdale reached the summit of Everest on May 16, teaching pupils about the thermal properties of clothing on the way. His videoed discussion at 7,010 metres and minus 12oC is the highest terrestrial lesson ever conducted.

Mr Mothersdale, now teaching maths at William Howard school, in Brampton, Cumbria, said pupils were particularly curious about toilet habits.

"Someone always asks if it freezes when it comes out," said Mr Mothersdale. "It doesn't, thank God. That would be very painful."

He is planning another teaching-related trip to K2 in Pakistan for summer 2004.

English teacher Susannah Moffat, 28, was marooned on a central American island for ITV's Survivor but missed out on the pound;1 million prize when she was beaten by a Scottish policeman in the final vote in May.

She is now teaching at a girls' secondary in Merton, south-west London, and threatening to feed worms to pupils on detention.

"I would like to think the experience has stood me in good stead," she said. "It has given the school extra confidence when I take expeditions for the Duke of Edinburgh programme."

Graduate trainee-teacher Christine Winter revealed in January that winning the lottery helped her fulfil her career dream.

Mrs Winter, who teaches business studies and IT at the Green School for girls, Hounslow, west London, scooped a pound;300,000 share of a pound;10.5m jackpot in 1996. The cash allowed her to leave her job at Camden council, north London, take an MBA and enrol as a trainee-teacher last January. All she wants for Christmas, she said, is Qualified Teacher Status.

PE teacher Natasha Grey, 24, and assistant head Peter Bennett, 54, spent the year lumbered with the titles of Britain's sexiest and brainiest teachers respectively.

Miss Grey, who paraded in a swimsuit for the ITV contest and has just taught her first term at Manor community school in Cambridge, said her fame was short- lived: "You know kids - by the second week there was a different topic of conversation."

Mr Bennett of Small Heath school in Birmingham, however, was asked to open a primary school fete near Birmingham airport, and appeared on a late-night radio show.

One lucky listener won dinner for two by asking him a question he could not answer about The Hobbit. "That sort of thing turns me off - fairy stories for adults," said Mr Bennett.

Headteacher Chris Wood shocked pupils when he imposed an "animal cull" on Glen Hills primary near Leicester this year.

He had earlier asked pupils to wear slippers to protect the new school carpets, but took drastic action after a practice fire drill showed the potential safety hazard of pupils sporting oversize animal slippers with floppy ears and tails.

Now plimsolls are the order of the day for pupils and colleagues have just about stopped laughing about the story at every meeting he goes to.

"I have spent 30 years in education but shall be forever known as the man who axed fluffy slippers," he said.

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