Lily Cole pays tribute to her former history teacher at Latymer Upper School

In an article in the TES, 12/07/13, model and actress Lily Cole pays tribute to her former history teacher at Latymer Upper School whom she credits as having had a direct influence on her future.

I had a number of supportive teachers but two had a particular influence on me.

Later, aged 16-18, I went to Latymer Upper School for my A levels, where my history teacher, Mr Bearman, had a direct influence on my future.

In my second year I decided, rather madly, to switch from history to politics - which meant completing the A level in one year - and he helped me. He was also wholly supportive of my attempts to combine studying and modelling work, helping me to catch up with missed schoolwork.

When I started to bring political thinking into my working practice - for example, on a trip to Botswana I studied the ethics and politics behind a diamond company I was modelling for, and later I wrote about student fees issues - I sought and learned from his advice.

Mr Bearman impressed on me the idea that issues are never black and white. He always added the word “but” and every statement was met with a question from him. So I learned to question everything, and learned that the truth often sits behind or beyond our immediate judgements.

Mr Bearman had a wonderful, wicked sense of humour and was sympathetic to the fact that I missed nearly half of the time in my second year, writing once: “Don’t overdo the ‘I’m coping’ when you feel you aren’t. Ask for extra help, which you fully deserve. Don’t feel guilty about missing school or it might spoil your enjoyment of the admirable choice you have made to continue your academic education. Given your opportunities, most teachers would probably give up school altogether.”

Mr Bearman had a big impact on my decision to go to university. I hadn’t planned to apply as I had been juggling modelling with studying for four years, had just started acting professionally and was loath to enter a period of that conflict again. Mr Bearman wrote me a brilliant, witty letter explaining why I should at least apply to the University of Cambridge. I couldn’t argue with it. So I applied and later graduated in art history.

Graham Bearman has retired now but we are still in touch through text messages. And sometimes he pops over for a cup of tea.

Lily Cole is an ambassador for Sky Rainforest Rescue, Sky and WWF’s partnership to help protect 1 billion trees in the Amazon rainforest. She was speaking to Jo Knowsley. For more information, visit sky.com/rainforestrescue

Model behaviour

  • Lily Cole
  • Born: 27 December 1987 in Torquay, Devon, England
  • Education: Hallfield Primary School and Latymer Upper School in West London, England; art history degree at the University of Cambridge
  • Career: Model, actress and environmental activist. Ambassador for Sky Rainforest Rescue.

Click here to read the article © TES.