People

9th January 2009 at 00:00

Most teachers would be delighted to know know that their lessons lingered on in the memory of one or two former pupils.

But a Yorkshire teacher made such a strong impression on one ex-pupil that his work will now be seen by thousands of strangers on the other side of the Atlantic.

Ted Harben (pictured), a former head of English at Scalby School in Scarborough, owes his posthumous celebrity to Ralph Thompson, a pupil during the 1960s who now works as a photographer in Canada.

Mr Harben, who died in 2007, is the author of a poem that was published in a local paper and forwarded to Mr Thompson by his mother.

Titled "Letter to Santa Claus", Mr Thompson told the Scarborough Evening News that it was "a poignant and very moving short poem about a starving child asking Santa to fill his tummy, not his stocking".

He was inspired to pair the poem with one of his photographs of a hungry but smiling African child to make a greetings card called "Dear Santa". It was entered in a competition run by Canada's biggest photography association and declared a winner.

"Ted Harben's poem will now be viewed by thousands across Canada and, maybe, help us all understand the needs of starving children around the world," Mr Thompson said.

"I trust Mr Harben would approve of the use of his poem by an admiring ex-student. He was an inspirational teacher and a very thoughtful and caring man."

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