Pat Saywell is one of those teachers who will be giving her all until the day she retires. A teacher for 38 years, she's been head of special needs departments for much of that time and has spent the past 11 at Priory School, Portsmouth.
Brian Shimmell, Priory's headteacher, sent me an e-mail saying Pat has "a heart of gold" and has devoted most of her life to children's special needs, especially to their social development. The learning support suite at Priory doubles as a supervised recreation area, and Pat Saywell has pupils waiting for her to open up at 7.30am.
The school has a mixed catchment area but serves one of the country's most deprived urban areas in inner-city Portsmouth. With a roll of 1,350, more than a third have special needs. "Where there are problems with reading she turns them into readers; where there are problems with confidence she gives them self-esteem," says Brian Shimmell.
Mr Shimmell has enormous respect for the way Pat improves children's life chances, providing "boundaries, security, love and care".
Pat believes that children learn how to behave and feel good about themselves through social interaction. "A lot of children need the social training and the closeness with an adult that goes with it."
So the school emphasises organised recreation, with basic skills workshops and counselling sessions running alongside. There are regular residential trips and educational visits.
Pat's department has 23 staff, more than half of whom are non-teaching assistants. Other teachers at Priory are often involved in the social side. "They're amazing here," says Pat. "I get goodwill whenever I need it."
Brian Shimmell took this opportunity to sing her praises before she retires next year. "There are so many people like her in the teaching profession," he says, "and on behalf of them all I'd like to say thank you."
This week I need your help to make contact with inspirational people in education. They may be fellow teachers or advisors, course leaders or consultants, but all will have the ability to inspire others to teach in more interesting ways. If someone positively changed your teaching style, please let me know.
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