Wendy Newton

11th June 2004 at 01:00
Wendy Newton is a teaching assistant at Heanor Langley infant school in Derbyshire.

She was a pupil at the school and has worked there 28 years, but there's nothing backward-looking about Wendy Newton. "She always wants to develop and learn with the children," says headteacher Carolyn Wood, who nominated her for our flowers, champagne and chocolates. "If she's not on a training course she's staying late, enjoying all the things she's found she can do."

Wendy began as a midday supervisor, then started helping in classrooms. A few years ago she devoted herself to being a classroom assistant full-time. This year she's working mostly with Year 2 and has all sorts of intervention programmes at her fingertips. Ms Wood says she is a highly influential member of the staff team - calm, kind and multi-talented.

She sews and cooks and recently joined the deputy head running an after-school craft club. "Wendy, I need you!" is a common cry in the staffroom when teachers are stumped for a card design or play costume. For an ambitious staging of The Hopeless Camel two years ago, Wendy came up trumps with 10 camel costumes "complete with humps and tails".

Living five minutes from the school in this former mining town, Wendy knows all the children's families and is a natural organiser for staff theatre trips and weekends away. Staff can't believe that next week Wendy will be celebrating her 60th birthday. Thank goodness she has no plans to retire.

"She's so young and heart - you should see her jive!" says Ms Wood.

Is there an unsung hero in your school? Tell Sarah Bayliss, TES Friday editor, about him or her at the address below. Flowers kindly supplied by Marks amp; Spencer

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