Kate Middleton's Mom Skills Were on Display During Surprise Classroom Visit: 'She Was an Absolute Natural'

·3 min read
Kate, Duchess of Cambridge visit to Nower Hill High School
Kate, Duchess of Cambridge visit to Nower Hill High School

Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP/Shutterstock Kate Middleton

Kate Middleton's trip to a London school included a surprise: dropping in on a classroom of 12- and 13-year-old students!

The royal mom of three, 39, visited Nower Hill High School on Wednesday, surprising students and headteacher Louise Voden alike when she joined in on a year 8 class being taught new material.

"I never thought she would do that!" Voden tells PEOPLE.

"She was an absolute natural," the headteacher adds. "She was really interested in what they had to say and their thoughts about the materials they had been learning about. She clearly feels very passionately about it."

Although the students didn't know Kate was stopping by their classroom until just 10 or 15 minutes ahead of time, Kate "made them feel at ease" by "reading the children's body language and knowing who is perhaps a little hesitant and nervous," Voden says. "She picked up on the signs with the children, and got down to their level and asked questions in language they can understand. She really engaged with them and asked them great questions."

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge interacts with students during a visit to Nower Hill High School
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge interacts with students during a visit to Nower Hill High School

KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH/POOL/AFP via Getty Images Kate Middleton

Voden describes Kate as "just extremely down to earth. She wasn't informal but not overly formal."

At the end of the visit, Kate told the class she was "super impressed" with the knowledge in the room and praised them for their work.

"Really well done," Kate told the students. "I completely found it interesting. It's a real passion of mine. Learning about babies' brains, about how our adult brains develop and how our early childhood influences the adults we become."

She added, "Keep thinking about it, keep talking about it with your friends. Well done, I'm super impressed. Thank you for having me today."

When they walked past some classrooms and children got out of their seats in excitement, the headteacher told Kate they'd asked them not to do that. But the Duchess of Cambridge waved back and said hello. "It was all delightful," Voden says.

Kate, Duchess of Cambridge visit to Nower Hill High School
Kate, Duchess of Cambridge visit to Nower Hill High School

Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP/Shutterstock Kate Middleton

Much of Kate's public work over the past 10 years has been focused on how challenges such as addiction, family breakdown, poor mental health, suicide and homelessness can be rooted in the earliest years of someone's life.

Becoming a mom — to Prince George, 8, Princess Charlotte, 6, and Prince Louis, 3 — was a huge influence on Kate's desire to focus on children's wellbeing.

"When I first started out – and I've learned a lot in a short period of time working with organizations – I was very naive myself as a parent of really just how important particularly the early years are for children's futures," Kate said in 2019.

"And how critical it is, everyone looking after children at a critical time, teachers, parents, and everyone who's caring for them, how important it is that we get it right," she continued. "I didn't know what some of the issues that perhaps we take for granted here as experts know about, but it's being able to translate it to those who don't have the training in a way that the points come across clearly."

When it comes to her own children, Kate is "so hands-on and involved with everything," a source previously told PEOPLE.

"She wants to emulate her upbringing, living in the countryside with a close-knit family," a friend of the royal told PEOPLE. "She desperately wants that normality for her own kids."

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Voden shares that Kate was also "concerned" about young people's mental health.

"You can see the interest genuinely stems from the fact that some children who don't enjoy the right experiences in their very early years go on to have real problems," Voden says. "She is really keen to see this work go into the mainstream science curriculum."

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