Belfast Telegraph

Woman who taught special needs youngsters for 40 years wins excellence award

A teacher who has spent nearly four decades teaching youngsters with special needs has won a prestigious award for the profession.

Other winners of this year's Pearson Teaching Awards include a Belfast headteacher known for her support of pupils facing difficulties, a primary school teacher who organised kickboxing classes for students and a teaching assistant who makes a cooked lunch for staff every week.

Eleven school workers were recognised at a ceremony in London attended by celebrities including new Strictly Come Dancing judge Shirley Ballas and double Olympic champion rower Heather Stanning.

Sue Jay, of Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee School in Horsham, West Sussex, was given the award for excellence in special needs education.

Mrs Jay has been teaching children and young adults with complex needs for 37 years.

Her school was the first special school to enter the National Rock Challenge Dance competition, and it was later asked to perform at a national dance teachers' conference.

She also introduced Shakespeare to senior students and entered them into a Shakespeare Schools Festival.

The school's production of Twelfth Night was chosen as one of three nationally to perform in London's West End.

Maire Thompson of Malone College, Belfast won the award for headteacher of the year in a secondary school.

She introduced a project to provide support for gay pupils among other measures. She has also been recognised for helping pregnant teenagers and any youngsters experiencing difficulties.

Michelle Garton of Wyndham Primary Academy, Derby, took home the award for teacher of the year in a primary school.

The teacher has arranged visits to places including Toyota Derby and the Burton Mail newspaper to teach pupils about different careers and raise their aspirations.

Judges were told Mrs Garton makes the emotional wellbeing of her pupils a priority and has introduced schemes such as kickboxing to help pupils find a way to remain calm.

Sharon Downes, of Puddleton First School, Dorchester, won the award for teaching assistant of the year.

Mrs Downes has taken on responsibility at her school for activities and jobs such as driving the school minibus, running a break-time book club and keeping records of pupils' experiences.

She also provides a cooked lunch for staff each week at her own expense, and when a teacher was off on long-term sick leave, Mrs Downes' headteacher described her as "the glue that held it together".

Children's author Michael Morpurgo, the new president of the awards, said: "Teachers are the quiet heroes.

"By telling their stories, by highlighting their skill and dedication, we can do some justice to them and to the whole profession.

"Through the Teaching Awards, we hope to enhance the reputation and value of the teachers in our lives, their importance in our society, and thus help to encourage the most talented and committed young people to become teachers."

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