We are delighted to announce that Margherita (Miggy) Biller (Maths, 1967), who is the head of Maths at York College, was awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Honours List.
The award is in recognition for her exceptional contribution to maths teaching in the Further Education sector and for delivering inspirational teaching to thousands of students over the last 44 years. Miggy began teaching mathematics at York College (previously named York Sixth Form College) in 1988 and was appointed leader of mathematics in 1996. After taking on the role of Curriculum Leader for Maths & Numeracy in 2001, she became Head of Maths in 2008.
Earlier this year, the story of one of her students, Daniel Lightwing, was made into a film called X+Y. Daniel cites that he wasn’t interested in maths until he came to York and Miggy suggested they have one to one tutorials. “I really enjoyed those classes and found them to be the only exciting part of going to school,” said Daniel in an article for the Huffington Post. “I certainly felt ‘special’. Before long, I had made my mind up that maths was what I wanted to do.”
Daniel was supported by Miggy throughout the selection process for the British International Maths Olympiad team — that went on to win four silver medals and a bronze in 2006. The importance of Miggy’s teaching and its influence on Daniel is a prominent theme in the film, but the director chose to turn the character of the teacher into a man and the role was played by actor Rafe Spall.
Miggy was invited to attend the premier with Daniel and his family. ‘It was wonderful to see the Lightwing family, in particular Dan,’ she said. “We sat beside each other at the showing, chuckling together about some of the film’s maths problems. It was funny to look at the line between fact and fiction being trod all the time by the film! Dan’s Dad, sitting just behind us, saw himself killed in a car accident … and I don’t think I need to say that I didn’t recognise myself in Rafe Spall! It’s a brilliant and very moving film, and Asa Butterfield is amazing.”
Somerville Principal Alice Prochaska commented: “I would like to congratulate Miggy on behalf of the College. It is wonderful to see how she adapted her own experience of tutorial teaching so effectively in the context of Further Education. And it is so good to see her celebrated not only with the richly deserved award of MBE but also (however obliquely) in film.”