The high life

donna-1Donna- Maria Maynard (née Bradshaw) with her friends Samantha Kloss and Cigdem Ulgen by the school’s art block

In the first of a series of articles to mark the 100th anniversary of Wanstead High School, former student Professor Donna-Maria Maynard reflects on a time in her life which ignited a passion for psychology

As I wander through the corridors of my memory, Wanstead High School emerges as a pivotal chapter, a place where I transformed, learned and grew. It was September 1981 when I ventured into the school, my heart aflutter with a mix of excitement and trepidation.

I felt overwhelmed initially; the corridors seemed endless, classrooms vast, and the school was adjoined to a sports centre. Here, under the guidance of PE teacher Mrs Hollander, I honed my skills in gymnastics and netball. 

A few remarkable educators stood out: English teacher Mrs Sihera – my first and only teacher of colour – introduced us to the wonders of Latin and the magic of musical theatre with a trip to Charing Cross Road to see The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾ at Wyndham’s Theatre, igniting my passion for the arts. The adventurous spirit of French teacher Mr Carty led us on a memorable exchange trip to France. Mr Robinson, a music maestro, and Geography teacher Mr Moughtin were beacons of knowledge and left lasting impressions.

Upon entering the sixth form, Ms Poole, my tutor group teacher, inspired me every day with her care, kindness and professionalism. Mr Goodman, a brilliant Sociology teacher, introduced me to Durkheim and Goffman, opening a whole new way of understanding the world around me. Economics teacher Mr Rogers who, despite his humanistic spirit, took us through the intricacies of profit, loss and GDP, and reminded us that: “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Miss Rossiter, the bike-riding English teacher, embraced an unconventional spirit, embodying wisdom with her mantra: “Feed a cold and starve a fever,” as she swigged cough syrup. These mentors nurtured my intellectual curiosity. Sixth form marked a period of newfound independence. It was a time of critical thinking, where I learned to question, analyse and not merely accept information at face value. 

Amidst the pursuit of academic excellence, my time at Wanstead High ended abruptly. I swiftly transitioned to the University of Warwick for my BSc, followed by the University of Sussex for my MA and psychologist training. In 1994, I relocated to Barbados, my parents’ homeland, where I earned my PhD at the University of the West Indies. Since then, I’ve stayed and was promoted to a full professor of psychology in 2019.

Looking back, Wanstead High School was my sanctuary of growth. It nurtured my independence and ignited my passion for psychology, shaping my resilience and diverse experiences. In retrospect, it wasn’t merely a chapter; it was the essence of my formative years, sculpting my character and preparing me for life’s adventures ahead.

For more information on Wanstead High School, visit wansteadhigh.co.uk