With three teenage children of her own and a Year 6 class to teach, Thelma Walsh has her hands full. But she still finds time to act as a mentor to trainee teachers, and Sara Snocken, for one, is very grateful.
Sara completed her school-centred initial teacher training at St Elphin's primary in Warrington, where Thelma was her mentor. "She proved not only to be an amazing mentor, but a pretty inspiring person to boot," says Sara, who nominated Thelma for our chocolates, flowers and champagne.
"She was a friend as well as a mentor and helped and encouraged me. Every time I was thinking it was not worth it she managed to persuade me to stick it out and keep going."
Sara is now happily teaching a Year 4 class of her own at Armitage primary in Manchester, but she had some problems in her first job. "Thelma was there to support me with helpful tips and late-night phone calls," says Sara.
Thelma is deserving of her accolade not just for her mentoring skills, says Sara, but for her teaching too. "Teaching is perhaps not a strong enough description of what she does. I saw her encourage, cajole and support her pupils into achieving excellent Sats grades. All this while providing support and mentoring to myself and a fellow trainee teacher."
And watching her in action is an education in itself, she reckons. "She's a good laugh, but very strict with the children: firm but fair. Teaching should be about enjoyment for you and enjoyment for the children, while making sure you still have boundaries. As a classroom practitioner she is the sort of teacher that all trainees aim to be."
Is there an unsung hero in your school? Tell Sarah Bayliss, TESFriday editor, about him or her at the address opposite. Flowers kindly supplied by Marks Spencer