I met up with some old school friends over the weekend whilst visiting my Mum in Staffordshire.

Even though the secondary school we attended in the village of Rolleston on Dove is no longer there, our memories were as strong as ever.

The Forest of Needwood High School

was sadly demolished some years ago to make way for an upmarket housing development, but our timeline stretched back to the the late 70’s/early 80’s when the ‘Forest’ was ours!

We sat talking, laughing and reminiscing about our school days like the British version of ‘The Breakfast Club’ http://bit.ly/2x54MTp and we all agreed that given the chance, we’d all return to those school years if we could.

I loved school, right from Infant School all the through to the end of Year 5 in Secondary School. I had good friends and never experienced the cruel isolation of being bullied, so no rose-tinted glasses required, my memories really are genuinely pleasant and affectionate.

Of course no self-respecting trip down memory lane back to schooldays is complete without the required debate about the teachers we’d had! The nicknames alone are enough to transport you straight back into the classroom, and we were soon recalling our favourites, together with those we’d not been so keen on, and of course, the teachers we’d just been downright scared of!

But one point that was made stayed with me long after the conversation had ended. Our talk had turned to the dreaded school report, and one of the group said they wished they could go back and show a particular teacher that he HAD amounted to something, he HAD made something of himself and he HAD been in full-time employment from the day his studies had ended.

Reflecting on this conversation on the long drive back, I also thought about the teachers I’d like to go back and meet as my adult self, but not in defiance, I wanted to go back and say thank you, I have always remembered you and the time you invested in me.

So, I’d go back to Beaver Road Primary School in Didsbury, Manchester to Miss Boardwell’s class.

Firstly, and I’ve only just realised it, Miss Boardwell is a great teacher’s name isn’t it!

I loved my time at Beaver Road, before we relocated as a family to Staffordshire. In addition to the usual curriculum, the school was keen to develop creativity in different areas, ideal for me as I was born without a single sporting bone in my body! So even from an early age I loved drama classes, story writing, poetry and music. But my real passion, that was singing, and as I had more enthusiasm than vocal skill, I never dreamt I’d be asked to audition for a much coveted place in the school choir.

It wasn’t just a school choir you see, singing at Beaver Road was a very serious business, and the school wasn’t just satisfied with one choir…no! Why have one choir when you can have three! Junior, Intermediate and Advanced – the choir trilogy!

And way before the X Factor had every been thought of, at Beaver Road auditions were taken terribly seriously with each budding choir member having to sing a full hymn of no less than three verses to a piano accompaniment from one of the music teachers. I can feel my mouth drying out at the thought even now!

So back to Miss Boardwell for a moment, as you’re no doubt wondering where she fits in. Well Miss Boardwell was my English teacher (my favourite subject) and she’d soon spotted my love of reading and encouraged me by sharing the titles of books that she’d loved at the same age, and so began my weekly trips to the library to feed my appetite for books!

But Miss Boardwell wasn’t just the English teacher, she was also choir mistress of all three choirs, and in the vocal arena she’d have made mincemeat of Simon Cowell! At my tender age, Miss Boardwell represented everything I wanted to be, she was always beautifully dressed, her hair was perfect, she always wore pretty jewellery and she always smelt wonderful – to me, she was perfect, and I idolised her! I’m sure on more than one occasion I wished that she could adopt me!

During one of her classes, we were asked to write a poem about what we wanted to be when we grew up and then read it out to the rest of the class. My poem revealed my secret yearning to be in the choir and sing in a competition with Miss Boardwell proudly leading us as choir mistress. Of course once I’d shared my poem verses with my classmates and teacher, Miss Boardwell asked me to audition for the Junior choir. Well there was no going back from that, so fast forward to audition day with me trembling in the school assembly hall, hymn book in hand, warbling my way through several verses of ‘All Things Bright And Beautiful’. You can keep your X Factor judges, this was way more brutal! You weren’t told anything after the audition, you simply put your hymn book down and walked away. Then came the agonising wait until the end of term, as on the very last day of each term, the new members for each choir were announced on a typed list pinned to a noticeboard outside the music room. I can still remember the thrill of standing in front of the board, looking at the list and seeing my name right at the top (the advantage of your surname beginning with A!) New term, new Junior Choir…I was in!

And so began my singing journey, and before leaving Beaver Road I’d progressed through the ranks to Advanced Choir and my dream of singing in choir competitions came alive as we competed in several inter-school contests, always with my beloved Miss Boardwell leading us.

Back to present day, I may not be part of a choir any longer, but I’ve never lost my love of singing and I can’t ever hear ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’ being sung without being transported straight back to that school hall, shaking with nerves!

So what would I say to Miss Boardwell? I’d say thank you for encouraging my love of English language, thank you for showing me that books will be lifelong friends, thank you for my love of perfume and always wanting to smell nice and thank you for taking my childish dream and making it come true.

Thank you Miss Boardwell, my Best Teacher 🏆

Sue Alty – The Creative Coordinator

Contact Sue

We think Sue must be a ‘Master of the Dark Arts’, as she has hidden depths! Running our office with meticulous planning and capability, Sue is an avid list writer with a keen eye for detail. But don’t be fooled by that organised demeanour, for Sue is as creative as she is efficient! A skilled communicator with a humorous edge, Sue is as passionate about people and their learning and development as she is about becoming the future Mrs Tom Hardy or Mrs Benedict Cumberbatch (either will do!).  An interesting career path has taken her from the glamour of working in luxury London hotels to the chilled Distribution Centres of supermarket retail, and whether managing small groups or large teams, people are at the heart of everything Sue does.