My City – Teachers Remembered

BY Almeida Theatre   October 4, 2011

Our current production My City recognises the almighty impact a special teacher can have on your learning and the path you choose in life. Here some teachers from Almeida partner schools, who work with our Projects department, speak about their most memorable teachers. If you have a similar story we’d love to hear it…

Miss Wallis – My Secondary School English Teacher

Miss Wallis seemed like a very prim English Literature teacher on the outside. However, beneath the surface of the sensible haircut and tartan skirts was a fiercely intelligent woman with a razor sharp tongue and a very cutting sense of humour. She was a woman that most feared because she could fix you with a gaze that would leave you trembling. You would never think to be disrespectful, you would never forget to do your homework and you would never come to her lesson without reading the appropriate chapter of Pride and Prejudice. But in the end, she was really a pussycat. She just knew how to run a classroom and you knew your place was to learn. Most 15 year olds need that structure.

The thing that was most impressive about this woman was that she knew the answer to everything. No matter what question you threw at her, whether about literature, history or politics, she would be incredibly knowledgeable. I remember asking her one day about Kate Bush’s song ‘WutheringHeights’ and any links to the novel. She scoffed and dismissed my enquiry, so after that I always made sure I asked questions that sounded reasonably intelligent.

Amongst the reading and the endless writing was conversation. Her lessons were like discussion panels and sometimes the topics went in all kinds of weird and wonderful directions. I remember her talking aboutLondonin particular and how much she enjoyed walking aroundCovent Gardenat night. I think of this now, twenty years later, living inLondon. The funny thing about Miss Wallis was a few years ago I bumped into her when she was teaching with a friend of mine. Even as an adult I trembled a bit, stood up straight and tried to only say intelligent things.

By Paul McIntyre, Assistant Head Teacher, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Language College


Miss Miles – My Secondary School Maths Teacher

My father was a regular soldier, so as a child I travelled with my parents to various postings – so many, in fact, that by the age of 11, I had been to 13 different schools -from learning in a tiny hut with 5 pupils to an enormous convent for 5000 girls. Unsurprisingly, teachers came and went in droves and the only one who really sticks in my memory was the fearsome Miss Seed at theAldershotAcademyfor the children of Officers – a real battleaxe who hit the backs of our legs with a hazel switch if we didn’t line up quickly enough.

It wasn’t until settling in to a secondary school that I started to form any lasting relationships with my teachers. The one who stands out most was a maths teacher. Maths was never my strongest subject and I was heartily glad to drop it as soon as I had passed the necessary qualification, but Miss Miles had another passion – the School Play. She always directed it and must have spotted something I didn’t know myself was there when she cast me in a small but important role in my first year – I was the only pupil in my year to get a part. I was hooked for life and went on under her direction to play leading characters in every show. She encouraged me to apply to the National Youth Theatre, to go toDramaSchooland to study Drama at University. Other teachers thought theatre was probably just a passing fad and wanted to steer me in different directions but she knew I really had ‘the demon’ and would end up spending most of my working life and a great deal of my leisure time pursuing it.

Years after I had left school, I went back for a reunion and to my delight she was there – elderly, frail, but still passionate about the theatre and so glad she had handed the torch on to me to try to enthuse the next generation.

By Judy Gemmell, Assistant Head Teacher, Islington Arts & Media School

Book for My City