Stef is leading from the front

Stef loves her sports, including diving.

There's very rarely time for Stef Jackson-Horner to rest on her laurels. The 27-year-old PE teacher, from Ashover, Derbyshire, is also Head of Year 7 at her school, as well as being a Duke of Edinburgh manager for the central region. Oh, and did we mention she also compete for Great Britain at Aquathlon? Here she tells her inspirational story.

Guides and Scouts open my eyes to the possibilities

"As a PE teacher at Thomas Becket Catholic School in Northampton, you have to be pretty resilient and it is not just going out in the British wind and rain that have its challenges. Summer comes with the iconic 'PE teacher tan'; sock and t-shirt lines are tough to work with!

Joking aside, when I am not out on the school field with 30 teenagers in tow, I'm either training, racing or doing more outdoorsy things which tend to fill my weekends and holidays.

Through school and university I was always your typical sporty girl; in every team and spending every evening at training for one thing or another.

It was being involved with Guides and Scouts, however, that really opened up the world of outdoor pursuits and wow did I love them all.

Kayaking, climbing, camping were all so different to the school sports I spent my weekdays doing so these began to fill my weekends.

Going out into the surf.

Resilience – the attribute I strive to teach my pupils every single day

When I became a teacher my aim was to give the pupils in my care the opportunities that I had, I have amazing active parents and this really showed in my childhood.

This goal is still my main driving force through my career and has been my motivation to lead many new activities to my pupils.

I really try to be an inspiration to my pupils, children tend to have a very low belief in their actions and I strive to motivate through mine. It was starting new trips and sports in school that got me thinking about starting new things for myself.

A mate and I planned what has become an annual surfing trip to Newquay, this was the first time myself and the kids on the trip had ever surfed and I was hooked instantly! So I bought my own board, roof racks, the works and now the other half gets dragged along on surfing holidays too!

Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme - a real inspiration

DofE has always been a huge part in my life but I wasn't until I started teaching that I really began to love it. As a child, it was just something that you did and walks you had to go on, but through university I began to learn this was something I would really love to offer to the pupils when I got in to a school.

Upon getting my first teaching role it became apparent that if DofE was going to run I would have to do it myself. This meant getting all the qualifications and attending all the courses required to run my own unit.

Every hour of planning and countless forms filled out was beyond worth it, once the pupils got in to the swing they were loving it, it was a new experience to them, nothing like anything they had done in their city lives before!

Gearing up for a swim.

Toughening up the tough rugby lads!

This is not to say they found it easy, quite the opposite, the tough rugby lads all of a sudden on expedition were out of their comfort zone with only themselves and their group to depend on.

To me this was why it was all worth it, and I saw my own experiences from just a few years before coming true, at the time you are cold, wet, feet hurt and the last thing you want to do is carry on walking, but the resilience sport and outdoor activities instil in you is beyond no other!

It takes a few years for this realisation to take place but there will be a moment in those pupils' lives when they are in a new tough situation and think back to DofE knowing they can make it through! Job done.

Once you enjoy one sport you can’t stop

In September 2014, my Dad decided after 40 years of running that it was no longer enough of a challenge so he entered a local triathlon. Not wanting to be outdone I borrowed my partner's bike and entered.

I have always swum competitively since a young child so this part didn't faze me but in the other two sections I was just waiting for the end. Turns out it all went pretty well and in the well renowned hardest sprint distance triathlon in the country I finished in second place.

I had caught the bug! I love training hard anyway but find competing in events gives me a focus and makes me push that little bit harder in every set.

Through the year I have started to enjoy the Aquathlons more, mainly because it means no blagging 24km on a borrowed bike, obviously a massive bonus!

Taking the plunge!

Taking to the open water...

After two further races which saw me get a second and fourth under my belt I wanted to qualify for the National Championships, this meant another new thing; open water!

I consider myself to be pretty tough and swimming in dark murky water doesn't bother me, despite not liking pond weed touching my feet, but nothing could have prepared me for this swim!

Swimming is my favourite thing to do ever but I hated it, I was in a borrowed Tri wetsuit so I was totally freezing, there were fish, I felt sea sick bobbing along in the waves, I just wanted to get out.

But giving up is never an option so instead I held my own and fought back in the run to finish in second place. Not bad for my first OW attempt and that was it I was going to the National Championships and undertaking yet another new aspect… a sea swim.

I was hoping for a better swim; I knew what to do now, I had the tactics going round and round in my head, I was going for clean water, ready and determined. I wouldn't say it went perfectly and was my dream race but I was crowned Runner-up British Aquathlon Champion.

I had done it, I had held my own against the best in the country – that is all I ever wanted and I am so proud!

I don't think any race goes without a hiccup, in this one I was stung across my neck by a jelly fish and had to go back in transition to get my race belt that I had forgotten to put on – who does that in the National Champs? – but it was fun, I was working hard and that's what matters.

At the finish line -with medals.

You never know what you can do until you try

Everything I do is due to pure 100% love of it and giving things ago, you never know what you can do until you try and you often surprise yourself.

Next step for me is the European and World Aquathlon champs in 2016. To have the opportunity to compete against the best in the world whilst representing the mighty GBR is so exciting and something that keeps me focused every night in training. It makes every muddy, sweaty, painful rep totally worth it.

Twitter is the best place for minute by minute action so be sure to pay @sjacksonhorner a visit to get the next part of this story….It's going to be good!"

Are you inspired?

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