Susan Stanley-Carroll believed age was no barrier to doing something you love
Susi with two ex-pupils. Kate Steed (now a teacher) and Kate McGregor
Drama and English teacher Susan Stanley-Carroll, (81), one of the country's longest serving teachers, has retired after dedicating 56 years of service to teaching, thirty-two of them at the Chiswick & Bedford Park Preparatory School.
The award-winning teacher, known as Susi to friends and family, has taught Drama, English, History Geography and Religious Studies in 12 different schools in total, both secondary state and private, despite telling her parents, aged seventeen, "Over my dead body will I be a teacher."
Her original ambition was to be an actor and after completing her own secondary school education, Susi took up a place at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama, graduating with a Distinction in teaching and a prize for Best Shakespearean Actress. She then went on to qualify as a teacher, and for some time combined the two careers.
Susi pictured with one of her grandsons, Lachlan
Born on the brink of WW2, she attended a total of fourteen schools, as her father was in the Royal Air Force and the family was stationed abroad, including a stint in Bulawayo in the then Rhodesia. While at boarding school in Cairo, she had to escape in an armoured car across the desert when riots began against King Farouk in 1952.
One of her first jobs was at the new Peckham Comprehensive School, where she produced plays and unscripted dramas, introducing the first CSE Theatre Arts Course in London and writing a book, Drama Without Script. She recalls a visit by Prince Charles in 1969 to one of her classes, where he was persuaded to play her 'drama drum', to the delight of the children.
Before coming to live in Chiswick, she taught in Hong Kong, Singapore and Saudi Arabia and wrote a weekly Arts column for the Hong Kong Standard.
Her return to the UK came about when her two sons, Richard and Christopher were at primary school age and she decided to accept a position at a local school. She is also a qualified dyslexic teacher and has trained in mindfulness, a technique she uses with young pupils in class to help allay anxiety.
Several of her former pupils from C & B Park, have won educational awards, including Josi Thum, who won the Times Educational Supplement Literary Award for Creative Writing in 2006. Two former pupils to whom she taught English, have gone on to success as authors, including Helena Coggan (with “Catalyst”, “The Reaction”, ”The Orphanage of Gods” ( Hodder & Stoughton) and Isabella Hammad with “The Parisian” (Jonathan Cape, 2019). Another of her successful pupils is opera singer Millie Forrest.
In 2009, Susi was chosen as BT Primary Teacher of the Year for the London area.
Outside her teaching commitments, she is well known as a theatre reviewer for chiswickw4.com. Her love of poetry has seen her involvement in a Young People's Poetry Festival, during the Bedford Park Festival, and she has attended many creative writing classes all over the UK.
The 2014 poetry judges with Simon Mayo who presented the prizes. L to r: Susan Stanley-Carroll, James Priestman (chairman), Nicola Kelly, Simon Mayo, Carol Douglas
She is also involved in organising local poetry group 'Pass On A Poem' (during Covid-19 it continued as 'Zoom On A Poem').
Susi is also a volunteer guide at Chiswick House.
She has two young grandsons, Lachlan and Alex, who live in Chiswick and a third grandson, Leonardo, lives in Brussels.
Her life as one of the country's longest-serving teachers has been featured in several national publications this week, including The Times, where she said she decided to retire while still active 'rather than being wheeled in on a trolley".
She has seen 28 Education Secretaries in office throughout her career including Margaret Thatcher, Shirley Williams, Kenneth Clarke and Michael Gove.
During the recent 'lockdown', she had to quickly learn how to give classes on the internet and said it reminded her of starting off as a young teacher again, developing a new skill on the job.
One of her concerns is the increasing pressure on young children, given the intense competition for school places in west London. She believes that this pressure has intensified since her own two sons were at school (St Paul's and Latymer) in the 1980s.
With a former pupil, who nominated Susi for BT Primary Teaching award
Interviewed by The Times in 1968 on the benefits of teaching drama, she described what motivated her and said: “When I worked in an office I met so many juniors who were quite unable to really talk to each other, let alone with senior staff or visitors. Largely because of this inability to express their ideas – and I know they had ideas - they were terribly lonely, and vaguely dissatisfied with their empty lives. I knew that in today's speech and drama teaching in schools, the emphasis is no longer on elocution, nor on producing the end-of-term play, but on helping children to use language effectively to communicate. So I applied for a specialist course, and here I am, loving every hectic minute of it."
Susi has lots of plans for the years ahead, including learning Italian, so that she can chat to her youngest grandson, continuing as a Chiswick House guide, Pass On A Poem readings, writing more poetry and a memoir. She also plans to continue teaching privately, including drama, online.
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July 11, 2020