Teacher trailblazers

“Teachers make such a difference. They don’t have to be experts in iambic pentameter and sprung rhythm, or workshop gurus. They just have to care enough to stay late after work one evening to photocopy a pamphlet of poems, or give that quiet kid a gold star, or pick the right moment to give the lad kicking around the classroom the right book.”

Richard Evans, Teacher Trailblazer

Each year we reward teachers who show exceptional dedication to the teaching of poetry in schools. These teachers help develop best practice for working with poetry and young people and share creative ways to bring poetry to life in the classroom.

Read their top tips for teaching poetry and try out their lesson plans.

2017 Teacher Trailblazers

Joanne Bowles  

Joanne has been senior librarian at Tor Bridge High school in Plymouth for the last 4 years.  As a school librarian, Joanne’s job role is to promote a love of reading.  Throughout the year she run’s literacy-rich library events across a range of subjects including Shakespeare, Roald Dahl and of course, poetry week.  Joanne likes nothing more than getting stuck into creating eye-catching displays and exciting the students with wacky treasure hunts and competitions.

Joanne loves to share her passion for learning new things by writing quizzes for the students, as well as creating library lessons to develop students’ love of reading.  She is the first to admit that she used to view poetry as difficult to understand – however, her determination to ensure students didn’t feel the same way was teamed up with great visiting poets and helpful tips from organisations such as The Poetry Society.  Now poetry at her school is not reserved just for poetry week, but is promoted in a fun and energetic way across the school all year round.

When she is not in work, she loves going away in her caravan with her two daughters and two dogs (oh and the husband too!).  Joanne loves crafting and learning new skills, from jam making to needle felting and yoga. 

Kate Brackley

Kate was raised on Jersey, where a series of excellent teachers, in particular Graham Crosby, instilled a passion for poetry. She left the island to study English at the University of Leicester, where she also completed her PGCE and was inspired to get poetry into the classroom by Sue Dymoke. 

Her love for writing poetry was further fanned by The Sunday Assembly Poetry Club, presided over by the very wise Jon Sayers. Despite a particularly arduous pilgrimage to the Ted Hughes Stone, this passion has not been dampened. Her new year’s resolution is to practise what she preaches and enter poetry competitions. 

She feels very privileged to teach in such an encouraging department and school where her poetry club, GramSlam has gone from strength to strength, even having a double page spread in the school magazine, ‘The Kingstonian’. 2016’s first whole day of National Poetry Day celebrations, pioneered by librarian Helen Cleaves and featuring our first resident poet, is just the beginning of the plan to fill the school with poetry.