Helen MastrantoneHelen Fairfield


Life before the Dragon

I grew up in Oxford and went to a local school called Cheney before heading to Bristol University to do a degree in English. I always loved having odd jobs while studying and by the time I graduated I had worked in a shoe shop, a book shop and a video shop; I’d been a waitress, a sandwich maker, an exam marker, a medical secretary and even a banana farmer and tractor driver… but I didn’t know what to do next. After teaching the girls in the café how to make the perfect BLT (with excellent results), I decided to train as a proper teacher. I moved back to Oxford and did a PGCE at Oxford University before teaching in a local secondary school for three years, while studying part-time for a Masters degree in English. I loved teaching but what I loved most was just chatting about books and inspiring students to read and learn for their own interest and pleasure. So I decided to retrain as a librarian. I spent a year as a trainee at All Souls College, Oxford, and then studied at University College London to gain my professional qualification. This is my first position as a librarian and I feel I’ve finally found my dream job. Let’s just say no one should ever have let me drive that tractor!

What do you enjoy about the subjects you teach?

In the library, you are not reliant on what other people want to teach you. You are in the driver’s seat, whether that means reading articles online or browsing through books on your favourite subject. Also, reading fiction is one of the best things you can do with your time. By reading fiction you can begin to understand who you are and how the world works. Novels take you through time and space, they make you think and feel - they can make you a better human being! Autonomy in reading and learning lays the foundations for true creativity and intellectual freedom, and that’s what makes the library such a special place.

What do you enjoy most about the Dragon?

When you set foot in the Dragon you can feel the positive energy of the school straight away. The students say what they think and are full of ideas, but they are also polite and mature. They are enthusiastic about everything. Staff and students are interested and interesting, and it feels like everyone is seeking opportunities to succeed and to have fun doing so. I love the emphasis on fun – at the Dragon you feel that learning is to be enjoyed rather than endured!


I love reading (obviously) and being opinionated at my book group. I love living in Oxford with everything it has to offer in terms of music, theatre, exhibitions and talks. I’m always setting myself new challenges, like running the Oxford Town and Gown for charity, which I did last year. Despite my refusal to leave my hometown of Oxford, I love exploring and have travelled in Africa, Australia and Asia, and I’m planning a trip to America next year. Life is so interesting that I’ve always got something to be excited about.