Controversy over private girls' school teacher taking part in Miss Universe contest
PUBLISHED: 15:23 15 April 2017 | UPDATED: 09:41 19 April 2017
A teacher from top private girls' school Channing has hit tabloid headlines after announcing she is entering the Miss Universe GB competition.
Pictures of languages teacher Maria Wilkes posing in swimwear on her instagram account which have been featured on The Sun and Daily Mail websites have provoked a mixed reaction from parents.
While some say she should be congratulated for following her dreams others say she is not a suitable role model for girls at the Highgate school.
Miss Wilkes, 26, announced on her Instagram page last Friday that she will compete in the Miss Universe GB finals in July during the summer holidays.
The teacher will leave Channing in July as she is relocating to the South coast.
She told the Ham&High: “I’m leaving teaching out of choice, but only for the time being. The Miss Universe GB competition is a 3-day event after we have broken up for the summer holidays. Then I will be looking for a new teaching position.
“Whilst I am still contracted at my school, I am afraid I will not be able to do any further interviews until July.”
The Year 7 form teacher made her announcement on Twitter and Instagram as the school had broken up for Easter.
Miss Wilkes, originally from Venezuala, also has her own fashion blog and Youtube channel.
One sixth former who follows the teacher on Instagram said: “It is hysterical. Her blog is quite racy and most of us just find it funny.”
But some members of Facebook group Hampstead Mums expressed concern.
One mum who is also a nutritionist said: “I think that a teacher especially in an all girls school has a certain responsibility to be a good role model and I am not sure I would be happy about the message this could be sending if I had a daughter at the school. Many girls in the school will already have body image issues or eating disorders. I am a registered nutritionist and see lots of young people who could be influenced by this in a negative way.”
Another said: “I’m not sure her choice of taking part in a contest that rewards how you look over who you are is the best way to empower young female students.”
While another added: “This is inappropriate and setting bad example to her female students. Pouting and sexual photos all over the media, whilst you are a teacher?? erm, just no.”
However others in the Facebook group, including a Channing parent, supported Miss Wilkes decision.
One mother of a year seven Channing pupil said: “My daughter is in year 7 in that school and the school has neither endorsed it or condemned it.
“The girls know about it, but to be honest have not made a big deal out of it. I think the parents have spoken more about it than the kids. My daughter has a different form teacher so I can’t exactly comment on what has been said by their specific class parents.
“Again, this teacher is only teaching one or two subjects and not like their main teacher they see all day long. I actually think it’s important we get different teachers that do different things. She is apparently a very good teacher and very nice as a person. The girls really like her.
“Ultimately, The headteacher is very strong and very feminist and wants to empower the girls that there is no glass ceilings or barriers for whatever they want to become or want to do in life, and this will in the end make the biggest difference.”
Another agreed, commenting: “I think it’s brilliant, but I am probably in the minority. My view on this is that it is super to show pupils that it’s possible to hold a professional life alongside a personal life, it’s modelling without nudity.”
Another supporter added: “As long as she’s a good teacher and kind who cares! More important is how they treat the children this is what the children will remember not whether she chooses to be a model. I believe they are influenced by our words and actions towards them only. They only learn to judge things and people by us. They come Into the world unjudgemental.”
Channing headmistress Barbara Elliott said: ‘Maria started her teaching career at Channing in 2014, and has taught Spanish, French and German. We will be sorry to say “Adiós” to her as she leaves this summer to pursue other career opportunities.’
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