A FORMER journalist and model, who has become one of the UK’s best known speakers on mentoring, is bringing her own unique style to the University of Sunderland.

Haili Hughes, who started out as a journalist and became a successful 1950s-style pin-up model, now travels to hundreds of schools and universities every year to deliver mentor training.

Now, the established author, mentor and teacher of 15 years has joined the university as a senior lecturer in PGCE English.

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She said: “I delivered a keynote speech at a mentoring conference at the university earlier this year and was struck by how lovely and welcoming all the staff were and the students I engaged with were very enthusiastic.

“It has been an interesting experience so far and I hope to grow, learn and make a difference by helping to train some incredible future teachers, who will go on to make an impact on thousands of students across the North East and beyond.”

Haili, from Warrington, Cheshire, began working life as a national newspaper reporter, going undercover at celebrity weddings, covering Berlin’s Live 8 concert, and being in the thick of the action for huge world events and royal occasions, such as Prince Charles and Camilla’s wedding.

But she also had her fair share of difficult experiences, like reporting on the London terror attacks in 2005.

Ultimately, the job took its toll on Haili and she decided to leave for the sake of her well-being.

After a few months break she did unpaid work experience in her former secondary school and loved it, so applied for a PGCE teaching qualification to add to her English degree.

Then, whilst attending a tattoo convention in Liverpool in 2010, she was scouted by an alternative modelling agency.

Within two years, she was modelling for more than 100 retro, vintage and alternative clothing brands and labels, and featured on the front cover of around 30 magazines.

Haili said: “It was an extremely surreal experience to walk into WHSmith and see my face staring back from the front cover.

“I remember I was on the cover of one particular magazine, which I eventually became the Deputy Editor of, and I took it to the till to pay and wondered whether the check-out assistant would notice, but she didn’t. Such is the power of editing, makeup and Photoshop!”

Haili’s career has also taken her into the showbusiness arena.

Earlier this year, she appeared on BBC Radio 1 presenter Greg James and his wife Bella Mackie’s podcast ‘Teach Me A Lesson’ as one of the UK’s most inspirational teachers.

“I have a massive passion for drag, so I wanted to teach them how to use the principles of rhetoric to persuade others by exploring how rhetoric is used in RuPaul’s Drag Race,” Haili explained.

“Both Bella and Greg were lovely, and it was such a great opportunity.”

This opened more doors for Haili, leading to lots of different opportunities for interviews on radio, including BBC Radio 5 Live, as well as writing opportunities for TES (formerly known as the Times Educational Supplement), Teach Primary Magazine and the Department for Education (DfE) blog.

Haili combines her new role at the university with working as head of education at IRIS Connect, being an educational consultant and author, delivering the early career framework to mentors and early career teachers, and the new National Professional Qualifications (NPQs) to teachers and leaders.

Haili said she has never compromised her individuality in her pursuit of success.

“I have never covered my personality or changed who I am to progress,” she said.

“I don’t believe in being more corporate. I want to be my authentic self and so far, it has shone through.

“I am a bit of unusual teacher. I have shaved, pink hair, it looks like a rainbow has vomited on my outfit and have well over 200 tattoos.

“I am a maximalist in every sense of the word - leopard print is my favourite colour.”

Haili, from Warrington, Cheshire, added: “I am obsessed with fashion, tattoos and music.

"I love anything that is out of the ordinary, anyone who blazes their own trail, like Bjork and Kate Bush.

"I also love to read and spend time with my husband Mike, son Hendrix and daughter Frida.”

The Northern Echo:

Professor Lynne McKenna, Dean of the Faculty of Education and Society at the University of Sunderland, said: “I am thrilled to welcome Haili to the School of Education.

"At the University of Sunderland, we recognise the crucial role School Based Mentors play in supporting trainee teachers through to achieving Qualified Teacher Status, and beyond in the early stages of their careers.

“Haili’s keynote address at our First Annual Mentoring Conference was inspirational and full of sound advice for our 600+ school partners.

"Mentoring is a key feature of both the Core Content Framework for Initial Teacher Training and the Early Career Framework for newly qualified teachers, so we are extremely fortunate that Haili is spearheading this work alongside colleagues from the Initial Teacher Training and International Teacher Education teams.”

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