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.


I think great teachers are the ones who make us feel worthy of ourselves.How many times we have,as students,dreamt to be like our inspiring teachers who helped to bring out the best in us?If we can do the same for our students,we will be able to pay a tribute to these educators.

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