When international opera star Alfie Boe reached for the hand of his friend Margaret Lund as he concluded his rendition of Nessun Dorma at the London Palladium she felt a great thrill.
Boe's surprise appearance marked the climax to the 10th anniversary celebration of the UK Teaching Awards and a fitting highlight for a distinguished career for the primary head, who was named UK winner of the Ted Wragg Award for lifetime achievement.
Mrs Lund, headteacher of Shakespeare Primary in Fleetwood, Lancashire, earned the praises of the judges for "her ability to spot and nurture talent" and her success in encouraging children, parents and others in the community to "realise their potential".
Since she joined the school as head 20 years ago she has placed great emphasis on using the arts and sports to unlock children's talent. One outlet has been the school choir, which, with the help of committed teachers, has developed a formidable reputation, including performances at the Royal Albert Hall and the Royal Festival Hall.
It helps, of course, if you have an opera star as a neighbour. "Alfie grew up at the house next door to our school and in the street next to where I grew up. He still comes home and he sometimes calls in at the school," said Mrs Lund.
"He listens to the choir and gives them some tips on their singing. He's a real inspiration to the children because he's had to work really hard to achieve his dream."
As the youngest of nine children, Boe struggled to achieve his dream to become a professional opera singer, having begun his working life in a car factory.
"That's what we are always trying to instil into the children, that they have to work hard to achieve their goals. Sometimes there will be setbacks, but they have to have the resilience and determination to carry them through," said Mrs Lund.
She believes that nurturing talent, whether it be musical or sporting, is invaluable for building self-esteem in children and allowing them "to shine".
"Music and sport are so important for behaviour, concentration, and self- esteem," she said. "It makes a real difference to standards of academic achievement. Our school does consistently well for value-added and I put that down to what we offer in the arts and sport."
Her enthusiasm has rubbed off on her daughter, Becky Woods, who has followed her into teaching and is now deputy head of St Nicholas Church of England Primary School in Crosby, Liverpool.
Mrs Lund was presented with her award by actor Jeremy Irons, who drew applause from the 1,700 teachers in the audience when he criticised the Government for failing to invest enough resources to encourage artistic talent in schools. "I deplore that," he said.
Mrs Lund could not resist having the last word after Boe's performance of Nessun Dorma with her own instant translation. "What better anthem for teachers than, `None shall sleep,' she joked.
Earlier, she also drew laughter when she paid tribute to her husband Des for putting up with the hours that she, and dedicated teachers everywhere, worked. "If they were to give an award to a headteacher's spouse, my husband would win hands down," she said.
Mrs Lund finally retired from teaching in the summer, though she confesses she still misses it.
She keeps in touch by doing part-time consultancy work for Lancashire education authority. She also plans to visit the fishing village in Sri Lanka that she, as chair of a local fundraising committee set up after the Asian tsunami, helped to raise Pounds 22,000 to provide seven new fishing boats. The boats are named after each of the seven primary schools in Fleetwood.
Mrs Lund was not the only award winner with a connection to the music world.
Natalie Richards, a former roadie for pop band Catatonia, was named the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust outstanding new teacher. She now works as a drama teacher at Bishop Gore School in Sketty, Swansea.
The TES this week launched a complementary set of awards that reward work done by a whole school team instead of individuals.
TES Schools Awards, pages 26-27
UK TEACHING AWARDS: NATIONAL WINNERS
- Outstanding new teacher.
Natalie Richards, Bishop Gore Comprehensive, Swansea. "This award is for my pupils. That is why I went into this profession, because I wanted to make a difference."
- Secondary headteacher of the year.
Melvyn Kershaw, Haybridge High School and Sixth Form, Stourbridge, West Midlands. "The students are the strength of the school. It's always been about the students."
- Teaching assistant of the year.
Mandy Skillen, Woodlands Primary School, Birkenhead. "Woodlands is just the best, the best in the world."
- Special needs teacher of the year.
Anne Gough, Royal School of the Deaf and Communication Disorders, Cheadle, Cheshire. "They are unique children. Each and every one of them achieves to the best of their ability and they cannot do that without the support of the team."
- Secondary teacher of the year.
David Miller, St Ninian's High School, Glasgow. "I get extremely passionate about English because I see it as a way of teaching people about life."
- Primary teacher of the year.
Libby Pryce, Pitt Street Infant School, Mexborough, South Yorkshire. "I had a teacher in my life who switched my learning light on and I want to do the same for my pupils."
- Enterprise teaching award.
Thomas Minnock, Linton Village College, Linton, Cambridgeshire. "Trust our young people. They will not let you down."
- Primary headteacher of the year.
Laura Brodie, Allens Croft Children's Centre, Birmingham. "It was Aristotle, not Plato unfortunately, who said the whole is greater than the sum of the parts."
- Sustainable school award.
Basia Gordon, eco co-ordinator, Shawlands Academy, Glasgow. "I promise Peter, our janitor, we will have more bins now!"
- Governor of the year
Einir Roberts, Harrietsham Church of England Primary School, Maidstone, Kent.
- Ted Wragg lifetime achievement award.
Margaret Lund, Shakespeare Primary School, Fleetwood, Lancashire.
See interviews with the 2008 winners here