December 9 2013 Latest news:
Thursday, October 3, 2013
A south Norfolk woman has achieved her dream job of becoming a teacher after completing a radical speech therapy course with the help of pop star Gareth Gates.
Sarah Webster, of Kirby Cane, near Beccles, has landed her dream job as an early years reception teacher at Worlingham Primary School – something she was told she would never be able to do because of her stammer.
Her journey started two years ago after joining the McGuire Programme, which helps people overcome a stammer, where she was selected to take part in a five-day intensive course in Birmingham led by Gates, which was filmed as part of the Stop My Stutter programme for BBC Three.
Prior to this the 27-year-old did everything she could to hide her stammer from the world and was turned down from teacher training courses because she was not in control of her speech.
She said: “I was a covert stammerer which means I did everything I could to avoid it.
“I used different avoidance tactics to hide my stammer by changing my name and used different words as a substitute.
“It got to the point where I couldn’t use the phone and I would say the signal is bad and hang up. I was told when I graduated by a teacher that I would never be able to become a teacher because of my stammer.”
Miss Webster said her world was turned around after meeting Gates, who with the help of his team worked with her to control her stammer.
She said: “I joined a support group in Norwich and found out they were looking for people to join the McGuire Programme. I didn’t really know what to expect but I thought I would give it a try. They stripped our speech back to the bare bones so we were speaking very mechanically.
“They made it clear that it was not about finding a cure but the end result is eloquence and control.
“I was then given a coach and I still speak to someone practically every day. I also do a 15 minute warm-up in the morning.”
The course gave Miss Webster the confidence she needed to reapply for a teacher training course and she was accepted by SCITT –School-centred Initial Teacher Training. Miss Webster said: “They supported me really well and gave me the right start to my teacher training and gave me a good mentor.
“I can’t believe that two years ago I was trying to get into teacher training and now I am trained and in my first year of teaching.
“I could never imagine that I would be where I am now.”
Miss Webster started teaching at the primary school last month and has a class of 30 children. She said: “Everyone has been really friendly and made me feel really welcome. It is such a great school.
“In the classroom with the children my speech is much stronger. Sometimes with the parents and in more stressful situations I need to use the techniques more, but if I keep going on courses I will gain more control. It’s still a work-in-progress but I feel a lot more confident and a lot happier taking on situations that before I never would have tackled.”
The Norwich University College of the Arts and Canterbury graduate said she still speaks to Gates and would one-day like to follow in his footsteps and become a speech coach.
She said: “It didn’t feel like I was working with someone famous because I knew he had been through the same thing and we had a lot in common.
“It has now become a two-way thing and he rings me before he has an interview so I can help him with his warm-up. It’s really nice that I can now support him too.”
Miss Webster hopes that by sharing her story she can inspire other people with a stammer to pursue their dreams and not give up at the first hurdle.
An information display on stuttering and stammering will be set up at Lowestoft Library in support of International Stuttering Day on October 22.John Thompson, of Oulton Broad, who suffers with a stammer and runs The East Suffolk and Norfolk Support Group for People who Stammer, will be running the display from October 19 with support from his group. On October 22 there will also be a representative from the Dominic Barker Trust and material from the British Stammering Association, among other groups.
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