Former teacher’s ‘love song’ for students

Author scoops top award for book inspired by youngsters ‘who taught me so much’

Friday, 4th February — By Isabellle Stanley

Hannah Lowe

Hannah Lowe taught A-levels at City and Islington College for 10 years up until 2012

A FORMER teacher has won the prestigious Costa Book of the Year award after writing a series of sonnets inspired by her time working with A-level students.

Hannah Lowe, who was at City and Islington College (CANDI) for 10 years up until 2012 before embarking on her career as a writer, was named the winner at a ceremony on Tuesday.

“The book is very much a love song to young people and to the kids that I taught, who taught me so much,” she said. “It’s also a book about my teachers, and again, my deep appreciation and thanks to everyone that’s taught me in my formal and informal education.”

The themes of the 66 sonnets in The Kids focus on learning and teaching, and growing up, while also featuring stories about parenthood.

“My little boy, Rory, who is learning about the world and teaching me every day, is the absolute heart of this book,” she said.

The award comes with a £30,000 prize, with judges describing Ms Lowe’s work as “joyous”, “warm” and “a book to fall in love with”.

In December, Hannah was interviewed by current students for CANDI Sixth Form College’s podcast The Jam.

“I began sketching these poems about five years ago after I’d left the sixth form and had a period of reflection where I started to think about what I’d learnt in my time as a teacher, not least from the students I was teaching,” she told them.

“I realised I’d learnt so much from the young people that I taught, about personal things, and public and political issues to do with feelings of belonging, a sense of Britishness or not, social class and gender – and I started to think about how they had impacted my own sense of my own identity.”

After leaving her teaching position, Ms Lowe went on to complete a PhD in creative writing at Newcastle University and now lectures at Brunel University. Her previous works include Chan Long Time, No See and Chick 2013.

Reviewing the interview and poems, student Elysha Smith said: “I was left feeling enlightened, like I had heard the much-needed other side to a story I had been reading since I was young. Putting it simply, this is just the kind of thing that students should listen to if they ever forget that their teachers are human too.”

The Jam podcast was initially set up as a way for students to talk about their experiences in lockdown and has gone on to feature discussions on various topics.

Debbie Bogard, the A-level history teacher who set the podcast up, said: “From the very beginning, this has been a student-driven initiative, and it’s been such an excellent way for our students to develop creatively and engage with learning beyond the curriculum.”

She added: “It’s also been a brilliant way of drawing on the expertise of our wonderful ex-students and ex-teachers and welcoming them into our wider college community. I’m incredibly proud of what our students have achieved, and already excited to hear where the podcast goes next.”

Related Articles