AS A child Aleks Budimir needed extra help with his English, being more familiar with the Serbo-Croat spoken by his parents at home every evening in Staffordshire.
But he would go on to teach English in high schools for more than 30 years, inspired by a teacher at his own school, and next month will retire having done the same for hundreds more.
The 59-year-old has taught English and some PE at Woodcote High school for 26 years, previously teaching at the school that is now Addington High.
On July 23 he will put down his copy of Of Mice And Men, the classic text he has taught for decades, and walk out of the Coulsdon school for a celebratory meal at the top of the Shard next to London Bridge.
Mr Budimir, who has also successfully led many Woodcote football and other sports teams, said teaching had not been his first choice as a school-leaver, but the career had been rewarding.
He said: "I had a passing conversation with a neighbour who said 'Why don't you be a teacher?' I said I had just left school, I did not want to go back, but he said I was good with children.
"It is lovely seeing students come back and saying, 'thanks very much for inspiring me, thank you very much, I did not like English but now I do'."
The father of two's plans for his retirement include spending more time with his family, travelling, reading and picking up neglected pastimes such as canoeing.
He also intends to write a book for his descendants about his parents, now aged 91 and 87, who came to the country after the Second World War from the former Yugoslavia and worked furiously hard, his father as a miner, to give him the best chance in life.
He said: "They spoke to each other in Serbo-Croat and that reflected on me. My English was so poor when I was a young boy that my mother had to pay for extra tuition for me to improve it.
"Like a lot of immigrant parents they wanted the best for their children, and they sacrificed."
Last week the school held a five-a-side football match to say goodbye to Mr Budimir, who is also head of Year 7. Among the players in the staff against-ex-pupils match was guest player Steve Sidwell, the Stoke City midfielder and former Fulham player.
Mr Budimir said: "We won – the score was something like 14-7. I had a smile on my face the whole evening."
His own career having been set in motion by his teacher Mrs Morel at Edward Orme School in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Mr Budimir said he would recommend the profession, adding: "If they have patience. That is one of the key things to have, patience and understanding, and don't let things get you down too easily."