Rather than one teacher, I am going to write about two teachers that not only inspired me, but who were also partly responsible for me becoming a language teacher myself and for ending up living in Spain.

The first of these, Mrs. Harwood, exploded into our school lives when I was fourteen and took over the teaching of French and Spanish at Ralph Gardner school in North Shields, where I was studying. Language classes before her arrival had been dull affairs, with the whole class copying phrases from the board, and reciting them when called upon. I remember translating sentences and reading from a dusty old grammar book that had probably been published in the 60's.

All of that changed when the new teacher walked into class. Young and tall, long-legged, and gorgeous with long wavy brown hair, suddenly, language classes became interesting. She brought with her a revolution in language teaching, and before long we were in a language lab, each of us in control of tape decks, listening to hip French and Spanish speakers, repeating their words and feeling for the first time that in touch with a living language. Then there were risque animated films about the French revolution, and fun sketches to perform. She made learning a language feel relevant and important. She also made us feel that speaking a language well was within our grasp, and I knew then that I was going to do my best to be able to speak Spanish as well as I could.

The second teacher who inspired me was also a Spanish teacher, and it was thanks to Mrs. Harwood that she entered my life. Mrs. Harwood introduced the idea of conversation classes with a native speakers into the school, and we spent time every week with Mrs. Azagra during the last year learning Spanish.

In her fifties, from Murcia (if I recall), Mrs. Azagra was the real deal, and she encouraged us to speak Spanish to the best of our abilities. I remember her as a good-tempered, generous, smiling person, interested in us and keen to help us find a way of expressing ourselves in Spanish. She was the reason that I decided to continue after school, and I went on to study Spanish at A'level at sixth form college knowing that I was in good hands. She made me interested in Spanish culture, and I was determined to go and travel to Spain whenever I had the opportunity.

Looking back at this time now, I know now that both of these teachers made learning a language fun and relevant to my life. When I decided to be a language teacher myself later on, I had two very good role models to follow. If I have managed to inspire any of my students the way they inspired me, then I feel I can be very happy indeed.
 

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