St David’s College Head of Humanities, Matthew Roberts, believes to be a good teacher you need to have lived a little first.
He has certainly done that, having traveled to places most people have never even heard of let alone been to. According to our Chaplain Emeritus Rev Tim Hall Mr Roberts knows not only the national flags of all the countries of the world but also who is running those countries.
Welsh-speaker Matthew who has a well-known penchant for sporting Fair Isle tank tops, decided to become a teacher when he was a tour guide on the Trans-Siberian Railway. He took well-heeled tour groups on the iconic two-and-a-half-week journey from Moscow to Beijing a distance of 7,865km.
“I learnt Russian whilst on the job and spent a lot of time in Estonia and Finland as well as Russia,” he said.
“I think my fascination with Russia started when I was around 11 or 12 when the Soviet Union collapsed and suddenly there were all these other countries that appeared on the world map such as Uzbekistan, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan.
“When I was a guide on the train and telling the groups about the history of the route, I realised I could be a teacher.”
Following his teacher’s training Matthew started his teaching career at Ysgol Ardudwy, in Harlech, the same school where the writer Phillip Pullman of Dark Materials fame, was inspired by his English teacher.
As well as being an excellent teacher Matthew runs a very popular Cross-Country activity, taking the pupils running in the school’s vast grounds and over the hills to Llandudno. On those days Mr Roberts looks very much like the Pied Piper with his small army of runners.
Over the year’s many runners of the school inspired by Matthew have represented Wales in national and international cross-country running events. Matthew himself has run for Team GB at the Trofeo Vanoni relay race in Italy.
In Summer 2020, Matthew set the new fastest time for the Paddy Buckley Round, in a time of 16hrs 37mins, a record at the time but now the fourth fastest time. The Paddy Buckley has a fierce reputation and covers 47 summits, 28,000ft (8,500m) of ascent and 61 miles, all in Snowdonia, where Mr Roberts is from.
He started seriously running in 2006, realising he needed to get fitter in prep for Tanzania and Kilimanjaro trips which he led.
“I went to watch the Snowdon Marathon and thought I could do that so I did it,” he said.
When asked what makes a good teacher, he said: “I think you have to have lived a bit first, so you’ve had different experiences and know a little bit about life.
“It’s also about keeping in touch with what’s going on in the world.”
He added: “I like teaching at St David’s College because the children are so diverse and interesting to teach.”
One could argue they are just like him.