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Thatcham driving instructor wins national 'Intelligent Instructor' award for South East

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A driving instructor from Thatcham has received recognition for her work in a national industry award.

Sue Smith, of Simply Auto, has been awarded the Intelligent Instructor best instructor for the South East Region, coming fourth overall.

She was nominated in the top 100 driving instructors in the country, for the second year running, along with three other well-known locals Peter Skelton, Martin Caswell and Clare Denton.

Sue Smith has thanked all her students for their comments.
Sue Smith has thanked all her students for their comments.

When a pupil passes their test, they are invited to give feedback to Intelligent Instructor, where they can vote their instructors into the top 100.

The panel said: “Our winning instructor had one of the highest number of pupils recommendations, and it’s clear they have helped a very strong bond with their pupils.

“They have helped many students with learning difficulties and use many wide-ranging, memorable techniques to help with the challenges their driver face. Never without a smile on their face.”

Sue Smith said: “It is very humbling as I know I’m definitely not the best instructor, but always try to be kind. I am so grateful to all my students that said lovely things about me.”

She said that her “training ground” was raising four sons. She added: “I have patience in the car, as nothing really surprises me.

“As instructors we are confidantes, encouragers and meet people where they are, tailoring each course to suit the individual.”

Mrs Smith’s journey began more than ten years ago, where she was “guided” through by other professionals.

“I started in 2009 with Tony Hart who had lots of patience, and helped and guided me through those first novice years.

“I then branched out to Jigsaw Driving School, as learning to drive is very much like putting a puzzle together.”

She commented on her fellow local instructors saying: “Newbury instructors are like a family. We all help each other when we can.

“Richard from Ultimate Driving gave invaluable teaching to many of the lady instructors that were nervous about their standard check when they were due four years ago.

“We are always advising each other and it never feels like we are in competition. It makes our jobs more enjoyable.”

She reminisced on memorable experiences her job has brought, from the joys of meeting students like her to meeting the demand of automatic instructors, whilst she was part-time.

“About three years ago I was teaching a wonderful 72-year-old nun. I realised she needed an automatic car," she said.

“As we prayed together at the start of each lesson, as I am also Catholic, I know she would still want me to teach her.

“I have always been blessed with wonderful pupils keen to learn and enjoyed many a journey with them. Often they remain firm friends.”

Mrs Smith noted just how important it was to have more automatic drivers.

“The demand for automatic was high,” she said as she mentioned the passing of an auto driving instructor, and the retirement of another.

“We cannot keep up with the demand and are grateful that many more instructors have now swapped to automatic.

“Since automatic I have been able to teach those more nervous, that may be on a spectrum or that suffer with anxiety. It is a joy to watch them blossom and pass their tests, something a manual would have never afforded them.”

She reflected on the feelings of witnessing each pupil pass their test and feeling like they could “conquer the world”.

“It is the best feeling in the world when they pass their test. Often this big achievement then helps them conquer the world as they believe they can do anything they want to.

“So thank you again to all my pupils who said lovely things, I know I’m not the best instructor in the South East but it gives me reassurance I must be doing something right."

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