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Friday Hero

Sheila Pickard is a Year 6 teacher at New Earswick primary in York.

Is Sheila Pickard the longest-serving teacher in the country? She has taught at New Earswick for an amazing 36 years.

Sheila retires this Christmas, aged 60, after a lifetime at the school. She arrived in 1966 and has worked "magic " ever since, according to headteacher Carole Farrar, who nominated her for our flowers, champagne and chocolates. "She weaves some kind of spell over the children so that even the most difficult boys respond to her. They thrive under her care and last summer achieved our best results ever."

The school is unusual in being voluntary aided but "undenominational". It was opened at the turn of the century by the Rowntree family, who had built New Earswick as a model village to house their factory workers. The factory is now owned by Nestle, but the Joseph Rowntree Foundation is still the trustee of the school, which has grown to 269 pupils aged three to 11.

When Carole Farrar arrived two years ago she discovered an old cupboard, unopened for years and sealed with paint. Inside were dusty old documents, including Miss Pickard's original application and her reference. Mr R Dyson, who was her first boss as headteacher of Wetherby St James primary school, had written that she was a devoted teacher, hardworking and very popular with children. "She is a person of principle and is anxious to give to children the joy of learning and achievement... the sort of person who is receptive to new ideas and experimentation," he wrote.

Carole Farrar says the words in Miss Pickard's first reference are as true today as they were all those years ago.

Send the name of your Friday Hero to Sarah Bayliss, Friday, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX, or email Flowers kindly supplied by Marks amp; Spencer

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