Great British Bake Off star Candice Brown has paid tribute to the support and encouragement she has had from her teaching colleagues, as she announced she was starting a new career in baking.
Ms Brown, 31, who beat Jane Beedle and Andrew Smyth to win this year's hit final, shocked pupils when she returned to her post.
But she has now made the "agonising" decision to put her job as a teacher on hold to pursue a career in baking.
Ms Brown said she had discovered over the past few weeks that trying to juggle her day job - which involves working with children with special needs - with new commitments was too difficult.
But Ms Brown, who also teaches PE, said she could not have made the jump had it not been for the support of staff at Ashlyns School in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire.
'You're showing the kids that anything is possible'
Ms Brown, whose last day at the secondary school was on Friday, admitted: "This has been such an agonising decision to make. Never in a million years did I ever go into the show thinking this would happen. That is why I have been back at school teaching since I won the final.
"I have been teaching for about eight years now and I love it. But since winning the final, I have also been completely bowled over by the amazing opportunities that I have been offered.
"At first, I kept telling the school I would stay until December but they were so incredible and told me I had to grab everything whilst I could."
Ms Brown said her school suggested she leave now, rather than at the end of this year, and that doing so would inspire the school's pupils to follow their dreams.
The Bake Off winner said: "My headteacher told me: 'You've got to do this, you can't do it half-heartedly. I wouldn't forgive myself if you missed out. It's not that we don't want you here but you have to give it 100 per cent. If we can't encourage our staff to follow their dreams and inspire, then we are not doing our job properly. You are showing the kids that anything is possible'."
Ms Brown added: "It was so incredibly lovely of him to say this."
She said that it was very emotional saying a fond farewell to her pupils and fellow staff at the end of last week.
"I will miss them so much," she said. "I work in special needs and you are fighting the children's corner so much. But I have had long conversations with my parents and my boyfriend, Liam, and I know it is the right decision.
"I can't thank the school enough, especially my head of department, Elly, who has been amazing, and I feel so grateful for the fact they have been so supportive. I keep thanking them all the time! It's such a great new chapter for me."
She plans to take her time to map her future but Ms Brown, who has signed up with a team of TV agents, says that she keeps pinching herself since winning the BBC1 show.
'School has been so supportive'
"It's been completely insane and the whole feeling is overwhelming," she said. "I was at The Cake and Bake Show in Manchester last weekend and it really was a 'stop and wow' moment.
"People are so lovely and I love it but, at the same time, sometimes it can really take me by surprise. Every so often, I get hit with this wave of overwhelming emotion and I get quite emotional when I think that this is really happening to me.
"If it hadn't been for the school being so supportive at the beginning and letting me go and film Bake Off, I wouldn't be here now."
Ms Brown said that children at her school were surprised to see her back after viewers saw her win the series in October - the last before the show moves to Channel 4 - because they thought that she was now a millionaire.
"They asked me why I was back after the final as I was now a millionaire. I explained to them that I hadn't won a million but, in fact, a cake stand!" Ms Brown joked.
"Leaving on Friday was emotional but I am excited about the future now, scared, too, and I am a bit of a worrier... but I cannot thank everybody enough for giving me this amazing opportunity and for my school letting me grab it with both hands and running with it.
"I am a very lucky person."
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