Friday Hero

16th May 2003 at 01:00
Gareth Hackney is a teacher in the London borough of Lambeth's refugee support unit.

For seven years Gareth worked as a language support teacher at Bousfield primary in the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and he left behind quite a fan club when he moved to Lambeth at Easter. More than 150 people, including former colleagues and parents, came to his leaving party.

Tracie Fryer Kanssen, the chair of Bousfield's PTA, nominated him for our flowers, champagne and chocolates, and says the children at the school "absolutely adored him. They can all relate to him because he is a cool and trendy sort of guy." Her three sons, who all went to Bousfield, started emulating "Mr Hackney" by constantly eating celery when he was giving up smoking, and wearing baggy trousers.

Gareth's job as language support teacher was especially important at Bousfield, an inner-city primary where more than 30 cultures are represented, and with a high proportion of refugees and asylum seekers. But Tracie says Gareth went beyond the call of duty, setting up support groups for parents, homework clubs for children with English as a second language, and celebrating international evenings.

"Gareth has managed to encourage dozens of children new to the UK to tackle their new language confidently," says Tracie. "It's a mixed area economically and culturally, and he relates to everybody. He has been an inspiration. He's always the first to volunteer and he helps at all the PTA events. He motivates people, and his enthusiasm is infectious. He will be hugely missed by all of us, and the gap he has left will be hard to fill."

* 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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