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.

2020 Teacher Trailblazers 

Amy Davis

Amy grew up in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire and was a voracious reader from a young age, encouraged by her mum taking her to the library. At Wycombe High School she encountered some truly inspirational teachers who encouraged her in her love of literature. Amy then studied for a degree in English at Oxford University, Merton College, where she had a fantastic education in literature from Old English to the present day. She knew that she wanted to teach because her love of discussing texts and enabling others to take the same pleasure from literature. Amy completed her teacher training at Reading University, where she met my now partner, Sam. She began her first teaching job at Dr Challoner’s High School in Little Chalfont in 2016 and after three great years there she moved to Wycombe Abbey School in September 2019. As always she is enjoying helping students discover new texts and articulate their views on them.

Read Amy’s fantastic Teacher Trailblazer resource here

Wendy Mackenzie

Wendy discovered her love of writing poetry about 15 years ago and when she started working at Dartford Grammar School for Girls, 11 years ago, the first thing she did was set up a Poetry Club after school. It is still going strong! The students are very talented and have won lots of competitions. Wendy introduced them to Slam Poetry and have taken them to Jawdance at Rich Mix in Shoreditch where they have performed their poems in front of large audiences. Wendy also organises Poetry by Heart every year which also proves very popular and gets students to enjoy poems which they might otherwise never come across.

Noor Wafa

Noor is an English teacher currently based in South West London. Other than her favourite writers, she draws inspiration from her peers, professors and most important of all, her students. She considers it her duty as an educator to cultivate their creative voice and appreciation of literature. Finding modern poetry in Britain to be an under-sourced pool of resources for teaching, she sincerely hopes to garner an interest for it through her lessons and extra-curriculars. As much as she loves Shaw, she inherently disagrees with the notion that “those who can’t, teach” so dedicates time to writing her own work. Apart from her love of education, she optimistically looks for time to learn new languages; attempt watercolours; soak up any and all sunshine, and of course dive into as many books as possible.

David Armstrong

David started his working life in a number of jobs – including warehouseman, postman, security guard, vaultkeeper, film technician, shopkeeper and importer – before becoming a freelance writer, a role which he believes needs as much experience of the world as possible. He set up extracurricular creative writing groups at Hellesdon High School, Norwich – the Minutemen and Vibe – in conjunction with graduate students at UEA, which met with pleasing results in producing published poets and novelists from Hellesdon students.

2019 Teacher Trailblazer

Gagandeep Chaggar 

Gagandeep has taught English in Birmingham and West London and is Head of English in Ark Pioneer in September 2019. Gagandeep enjoys writing poetry herself and designed a poetry writing unit at her previous school, Greenford High School. Gagandeep thinks it is such a pure way for students to express themselves and play with words and tries to encourage students to enter poetry competitions wherever possible so they have a purpose for perfecting their poetry skills and gain a sense of pride in their work.

2018 Teacher Trailblazers

Fran Pridham  

Fran is a teacher, writer and performer based in Wigan. She has run a writers’ group at Winstanley College for 22 years, and has taught winning poets in the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award, from its inception in 1998 until today. Fran still holds dear her copy of the small plastic things in life: poems by the Simon Elvin Poets of 1998 (now the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award). Every year the writers’ group at Winstanley College produce a college poetry anthology, which is shared on National Poetry Day, and supported by a policy of poetry vandalism where poems new and old are pinned up around the college for all to read.

For many years Fran was a member of Manchester Poets and as a winner in the Crocus Books competition had her first poetry pamphlet Red Jam published in 2000. Her textbook The Language of Conversation came out in 2001 and her interest in chatting has never ceased. She has facilitated a poetry trail at the Manchester Poetry Festival, and continues to be published in poetry magazines. Apart from poetry, her principal interest is eating and making sure everyone around her is having fun!

Lyndsey Chand

Lyndsey is a teacher from West Yorkshire. She has run creative writing clubs from the start of her career, and has taught writers who have won or been shortlisted for a number of awards, including the Betjeman Poetry Prize, the First Story National Writing Competition, and the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award. Lyndsey believes in the importance of promoting writing for enjoyment and pleasure, and this is what she aims for in her creative writing sessions.

Lyndsey has written from a young age and won several prizes for her writing as a teenager, including the Branford Boase Young Writers’ Award. In 2017, she was the winner of the teachers’ category of the First Story National Writing Competition, and was delighted to have the opportunity to take some of her students on an Arvon writing course in Hebden Bridge. As well as writing, she enjoys reading, travelling, and walking her dog, Toby!