Why Mrs Maxwell is making magic

When pupils at her nursery and reception class graze their knees, Sian Maxwell has the perfect antidote to the ensuing tears - her magic water, liberally applied.

According to colleagues, pupils and parents at Ysgol Llanddulas, near Abergele, Mrs Maxwell is magic in all other respects, too.

The teaching assistant and first- aider has gained a devoted contingent of supporters in her 16 years at the village school.

Now she has national recognition, after collecting the Welsh teaching assistant of the year award at this summer's national teaching awards in Cardiff.

Headteacher Sharon Davies says that Mrs Maxwell, 40, is universally treasured.

"Everyone thinks that this award is long overdue, as Sian has been giving unstintingly to the school, and everyone connected to it, for many years.

"When the pupils leave for secondary school, they all stand up and say something about their time here. Sian is guaranteed to get a mention from every pupil, as she plays such an important role in their daily lives," she says.

Her contribution made an instant impression on the award judges, prompting the observation: "From our first minutes at the school we knew what an asset Sian was to everyone. She is a truly remarkable person whose presence creates a wonderful, harmonious atmosphere."

Mrs Maxwell says simply: "I didn't expect to win an award for doing what I love."

A first-language Welsh speaker, Mrs Maxwell promotes her native tongue by conducting Monday assembly in Welsh.

She takes an RE class every Friday, and runs a 16-strong Sunday school class in nearby Rhyl. Multi-tasking comes naturally to her, and she is quite happy to drive the school minibus, or play the piano, as the need arises.

Working with children was her lifelong ambition.

"Even when I was at training college, and I left home at 6.30am, and got home after 6pm in the evening, it didn't occur to me to do something else,"

she says.

One of her key motivators is seeing her charges achieve. "I have high expectations of them and I expect them to try their best at all times. When they succeed it's extremely rewarding," she says.

When she isn't showering TLC on her pupils, she looks after her sons, Erin, eight, and Huw, six.

"My life revolves around children. There isn't a lot of free time, and what little I have I seem to spend catching up with myself. But I expect that's the same for most people," she says.

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