When she started a new course, the last thing on Debbie Hartle's mind was love. But then everything changed...
Sitting in class, butterflies danced in my stomach.
It was the first day of term, and at 17, I'd signed up to study science in my senior years at college.
Grabbing my pen and notebook, I was excited to learn.
Chemistry in particular had always been a passion of mine.
And when my new teacher, Ian Green, then 45, walked into the room, I knew straight away that it was something I was going to have an interest in for a long time to come.
As soon as he opened his mouth I was hooked.
Ian really knew his stuff, and the more I heard him talk about equations and formulas, the more amazed I was.
Ian's knowledge was incredible and it made him really attractive.
'He's so intelligent, it makes me fancy him a bit,' I admitted to my mum, Maud, back home.
She thought I had some kind of schoolgirl crush.
And I couldn't blame her.
As the weeks went on, it felt like it.
My stomach would flip when Ian leaned over my desk.
Was that his breath I could feel against my cheek?
Stop it, I told myself sternly.
I was his student and this was my teacher.
I knew I had to keep my feelings well and truly under wraps.
Was that his breath I could feel against my cheek?
Still, there was no denying that Ian and I got on very well, and as the term progressed conversation flowed between us.
'You definitely have a good grasp of chemistry,' Ian said to me one day as he handed out the test results for our latest assignment.
'Well, it's all about the teaching,' I smiled back, pleased to see a bright red 'A' circled on my paper.
Wanting Ian to notice me, I studied really hard and even asked if he could give me some one-on-one tuition so I could improve my grades further.
I was thrilled when he agreed, and during those meetings at college, I slowly discovered we had a lot in common.
Not just a passion for science, but similar tastes in music and films too.
So before term broke up for the summer, in June 2012, I asked Ian if he was allowed to email me over the holidays.
He had my address because I'd submit assignments that way.
But it was a question he clearly wasn't expecting, as his face fell into a frown.
'Not really...' he replied.
And that was that.
Embarrassed, I scurried away, telling myself that there was no way I'd hear from him at all.
But a few days later, a message popped up in my inbox.
It was Ian - he'd sent me some links to science videos on YouTube.
What kind of energy moves? he quizzed me.
Kinetic, I replied.
Well done, he messaged back, congratulating me.
So perhaps he did like me after all?
During that summer he sent me all sorts of science-related information, including a video about the solar system that had me mesmerised.
Each time I replied to a message, I'd pray Ian would read between all the science talk and see what I was really saying.
What if love was written in the stars for us?
I'd pray Ian would read between all the science talk and see what I was really saying
By now I couldn't stop thinking about my teacher.
I knew I had to tell him how I felt.
So when I returned to college in July, I pulled him aside one day after class.
'I just can't control it any longer,' I told him. 'I have feelings for you.'
But Ian's response was firm.
'I can't and won't form a relationship with a student,' he replied. 'I'm flattered, but it can never happen.'
Tears of disappointment pricked my eyes.
But in a matter of seconds, I'd blinked them away, feeling defiant.
'Then I'll leave college,' I said. 'I can't ignore what we have.'
It was a bold statement - but true to my word, that day I walked out of the classroom and never looked back.
But was it enough?
For a month I didn't hear anything from Ian.
Had I made a terrible mistake? What if he didn't feel the same after all?
Finally though, in August, as I prepared to start a correspondence course in science, my phone rang.
'Hello?' I answered.
'It's Ian,' came the reply, and my heart skipped a beat.
'We need to talk.'
Two days later, we were meeting in a park.
'I can't ignore it either,' Ian confessed. 'I want us to be together.'
As he took my face in his hands and kissed me, I felt on top of the world.
I'd waited so long for this moment.
My dream had come true!
From that moment, Ian and I became an item - and we spent the rest of the summer visiting different places around England.
Fortunately Mum was just pleased to see me so happy and she knew we'd done things the sensible way.
And it didn't matter what anyone else thought about our 27-year age gap.
Ian and I were falling madly and deeply in love.
For me, life couldn't get any better.
Well, that was until October, when I fell pregnant.
Ian and I were both thrilled!
Four months later, we were sitting on a bench together admiring a picturesque view of the sea when I couldn't help but make a joke.
'You'd better propose right here and now or it's over,' I giggled, gazing at the stunning scene.
I could hardly believe it when Ian reached into his pocket and pulled out a sparkling ring.
Did I really just say that? I had!
And Ian really was proposing!
'You'd better propose right here and now or it's over,' I giggled
Oh my god... yes!' I gasped, as he leaned in for a kiss.
Five months later, we welcomed a daughter, Jasmine, into the world.
It wasn't the easiest birth - complications meant I lost a lot of blood, but pulling through only made me even more grateful for my beautiful family.
Twelve months later, in July this year, Ian and I married in a beautiful fairytale ceremony with our little girl by our side.
As we exchanged our vows, I thanked my lucky stars that I met the man of my dreams - even if it was in the classroom.
I get to spend the rest of my life with my soulmate.
And that truly is a grade-A result!
Originally published in that's life! issue 35, 2014