THE inspirational physics teacher who set Countdown star Rachel Riley on the road to stardom, has spoken about his pride in her success.

Paul Betts, 66, from South Woodham Ferrers, has stepped forward to reveal he is the teacher the former Southend High School for Girls maths wizard recently praised for opening up a world of “glorious tangents”

with his unconventional teaching methods.

Lavishing praise on Mr Betts, who taught her for three years, Rachel said his classes were always wonderful to be in and inspired her degree choice, which would ultimately set her on a path to replacing Carol Vorderman on the Channel 4 game show in 2009.

Mr Betts, who taught Rachel at A-level, said he was pleased with her remarks. He added: “It was very nice of her and typical of Rachel.

“She was very good and studied very intently. She was very able and interested.”

Mr Betts, who left Southend High School for Girls in 2007 to train other science teachers at the University of East London, is clear about what makes a good teacher, particularly in the often less popular science subjects.

He said: “I think it’s all about having a love of the subject and to communicate that and to make the subject interesting and relevant.

“Sometimes science is not made as relevant as it could be.”

In a recent interview, Rachel said Mr Betts “wasn’t afraid to go off on a tangent”.

She said: “We once found ourselves discussing quantum universe, stuff about quantum particles – the sort of thing you’d never cover at that age – because we kept asking questions and he kept answering them. And it got to the point where he said: “You know what? I don’t know the answer. Actually, no one knows.

That’s what we’re trying to find out.

“That’s why I made my degree choice – applied maths with elements of physics, at Oxford. It intrigued me, thanks to Mr Betts.

“It was him who encouraged me to apply to Oxbridge. He came to the school, saw something in me and pushed me.”

Acknowledging Rachel’s rise to fame, Mr Betts added: “I’m proud of her. It’s nice to see students doing well and to see someone like that in the public eye.”