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UHNM dietitian reunited with English teacher who inspired her to become an author

Alison Falkonakis, UHNM dietitian, and John Mills, retired teacher and author, were reunited when Mr Mills became a patient

UHNM dietitian and published children’s author Alison Falkonakis has been reunited with the high school English teacher who inspired her to write. Alison, who works at County Hospital, Stafford, was surprised to find now retired teacher Mr John Mills on her patient list recently.
Alison, 51, of Stone, attended Blythe Bridge High School from 1981 to 1986, where she was taught by Mr Mills. She has now published six children’s books.

Alison said: “When I saw that Mr Mills was a patient I wanted to thank him and give him a copy of my book.

“I loved John’s English lessons at school. He had a fantastic imagination and this inspired me a lot, we also used to play wonderful games in class and I always used to look forward to them. I had the good fortune to have him twice through the five years I was there and I was just so pleased to come back. It was his evident love for English and for language and the variety of words that drew me in, I really enjoyed it.

“It’s surreal that the pupil is now sitting here reading the teacher’s work! I absolutely adored how John wrote in his book how he felt about my writing, because no matter how many people say to you that they enjoyed your work, to have someone who was your teacher say it’s really good actually means more to me than any other critique I’ve ever had. You believe it then because he’s the teacher, it’s really touching.

“The experience has meant an awful lot to me. It’s almost like a returning home to be able to come back to somebody and to be able to say you know, you made a real impact on what happened. As much as John is very modest and perhaps doesn’t want it, he really did. I just want to thank him and make sure he understands that.”

Alison and John exchanged copies of their published works while John attended his appointment at County Hospital, Stafford

Mr Mills, 69, of Stone, has now retired from teaching but recently published a book of poetry.

Mr Mills said: “I wasn’t expecting to see Alison. It’s great that people can become reunited again after all these years. And it’s lovely to meet former pupils and see what’s happened in their lives and how they’ve grown and developed as people. What we as teachers can do is awaken what is already within the person and give them the opportunity to learn how to flower.

“It’s wonderful because it makes me think  - you can kind of blunder through life - but when I meet someone like Alison it makes me think – yeah, maybe I got it right and that gives me great pride. I’m more proud of her book than I am of my own.

“I didn’t mind sharing my emotions when teaching, I still can’t get to the end of ‘Of Mice and Men’ without crying. It says there that we’re all capable of great compassion and I’d like to think that I showed a little bit of that in the classroom. A lot of teachers teach at people and I hope I taught with them.”

Mr Mills is currently receiving treatment for Parkinson’s disease and cancer at UHNM.

In his book ‘No guiding star’ John writes about his experience with both illnesses.

John continued: “When I perform poems I can educate people a little about what it’s like to have Parkinson’s. People think you just sort of sit there and wobble a bit, but I struggle to do buttons and things like that. And you can do it in a humorous way as well so people are learning a bit about the disease as well as being entertained.

“The care I’ve received at UHNM has been better than first class. The positive attitude of the nurses and the receptionists are brilliant. You come in frightened and they put you at ease, so you get off to a good start and the nurses are kind to you and very positive and professional.”

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