Pupil at Da Vinci Academy (Derbyshire, East Midlands)

My teacher opened doors I thought I’d never walk through

Without the support of a great teacher, Elisha could have fallen out of education altogether. But the determination of the staff at Da Vinci Academy – a Teach First partner school – meant that Elisha’s future is full of opportunity. 

The last few years of school have been really tough.

In primary school, I’d always considered myself smart. I enjoyed going to school and loved to learn. But at my first secondary school, I believed I lost all of that. Maybe I wasn’t as special as I thought? Or maybe I was even less than that?

I began to feel alone and unmotivated, especially when it came to my schoolwork. It was teacher versus student every day and I acted out a lot. I was a disruption to the school and my options were running out. But it wasn’t just at school that things felt like they were spiralling out of control. Eventually, I even started to shut out my Nan, who I’m closest to.

A fresh start

I needed a fresh start. But I didn’t realise it yet.

That’s when one of the Deputy Heads at Da Vinci Academy came to visit me at my school. She asked me about moving school. I wasn’t sure. To me, school was just school. Why would moving make any difference? But there was something that made me believe her. And I agreed to try a new school.

Struggling to fit in

When I joined Da Vinci Academy, I didn’t know anybody. I had to start fresh and I found it scary.

I was still suffering with panic attacks – even going into a lesson was a no for me. It wasn’t the lesson, it was the anxiety of getting through the door. I’d get this immense feeling of pressure every time I’d put my foot in.

After a few days, one of my teachers, Mr Wiles, noticed I wasn’t going into lessons. I tried to explain that I couldn’t, but that I didn’t really understand why. I didn’t realise that he already understood. To help me, he made it like a game. At first, I’d hide and refuse, wanting to just give up. But he wouldn’t give up on me. He’d always come and find me and get me through the door. He was patient. Even if I had taken a step back one day, we’d start all over again the next day.

What makes a good teacher

To me, a good teacher is someone who’s patient. A friendly face on the hardest days. To me, school means facing your fears. It means taking a leap of faith even in the moments when you’re unsure.

Together, along with the help of other teachers, I rekindled all the old love that I had for learning. Now, I’m motivated again with a clear idea of the direction I want to take. I’m going to take an English degree and I’ll do as Mr Wiles taught me and see the world. And my Nan? Well, she says she’s started to get me back, the happy me.

Because of Mr Wiles, I will walk through every door with a skip in my step because I know that he opened them for me.

Watch Elisha's story here


Teach First works with the schools facing the toughest challenges. Discover more about the issues facing schools like Elisha’s and our fight to make the education system work for every child.

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