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Pupils I'll never forget

Susan Manzi recalls a boy who had joie de vivre against the odds

I met Sam at the start of my career as a special needs co-ordinator in the Nineties at Hillsgrove primary school in Welling. He was a small blond boy with an infectious smile and he wore two hearing aids: the prehistoric type that required the teacher to wear a transmitter round her neck so he could hear properly. It was also the type that magnified every sound in the room and the corridor outside. Sam often appeared to be listening elsewhere; he knew where everyone was and which class had gone up the corridor and when.

He was a cheerful boy of seven, and took life at full pelt regardless of his hearing disability, caused by an illness at birth. He came to me for booster sessions in literacy and I kept his battery recharging equipment in my room. This meant he had to walk down a very long corridor at the beginning and end of the day to collect his "box of tricks", as we called them. Along the way he would touch everything in sight. If a new display went up, he would have to study it and investigate it, before sauntering on to me.

He had a wicked sense of humour and was always laughing. He taught me a lot about minimising your ailments and getting on with life. But sadly his babyhood illness returned when he was eight. After a big operation to remove a tumour on his spine, and a recovery that included his running around the playground in a full body brace, he suddenly collapsed one day.

He died shortly afterwards.

I remember him as such a happy child, with a determination to succeed despite all the rotten cards life had dealt him. Sam's parents were amazing. They allowed him to live a "normal" life and in his memory they raised money for other deaf children to experience all the good things that life can offer. I am full of admiration for them. Sam gave me an insight into how children with various disabilities can prosper in mainstream education, and further strengthened my resolve to make it happen wherever I can. This I now do in my role as a headteacher. We are lucky to work with all manner of children, but some touch your heart more than others.

Susan Manzi is head of East Wickham infant school, Welling, Kent. Do you have special memories of unforgettable pupils? Write to Sarah Bayliss at the address on page 21 or email

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