Sue Burt has been a familiar face around Meonstoke school in Hampshire for more than 50 years. She was a pupil at the school, sent her own children there and, for the past 19 years, worked as its admin officer.
So when Louise Pearce started as headteacher of the 62-pupil village school in January, she was glad of Sue's years of experience. Not only did Sue know how to deal with awkward enquiries from the LEA and sort out the day-to-day running of the school, but, more importantly, she knew how to work the fax machine and what to do when Ms Pearce accidentally set off the fire alarm.
But her efforts didn't always get their just reward. Once, Sue was in the cleaning cupboard fetching a toilet roll when Ms Pearce walked past, noticed the cupboard door was open, locked it, hung up the key, told the four-year-old waiting desperately in the corridor to go back to class and went into her office. Fifteen minutes later, alerted by muffled cries, Ms Pearce released her longest-serving - not to mention long-suffering - member of staff. "Sue was laughing so much that we rushed for her asthma inhaler, just in case," says Ms Pearce, who nominated Sue for our flowers champagne and chocolates.
Sue's working life at the school - during which time she has seen four headteachers come and go - ended in July, when she retired to look after her granddaughter Bethan, allowing Bethan's mum, Sarah Huntley, to return to work as the school's reception teacher. "Another act of selfless service," says Ms Pearce. "She is unfailingly calm and gentle, has time for everyone and would drop everything if you were in a fix. She also has a wicked sense of humour."
Sue still pops in for tea and cake on a Wednesday, and even though she has been replaced by an equally efficient and unflappable admin officer, Ms Pearce says: "We miss her enormously; so do our families."
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