Workers reached for their tissues on Friday as special needs teacher Liz Brightwell received an award for helping young people in care.
A citation read to the 100-strong audience, describing her as someone her pupils from The Ryes Community College respect and look up to, had the room in tears.
Liz, 62, from Grantham Avenue in Great Cornard, was on a special needs training course run by Essex County Council for teachers and local authority workers from all over the country.
At the end of the day, the organisers started talking about inspirational teachers, reading out a selection of comments from grateful pupils, which Liz began to recognise.
These included comments such as “she is magic and always has a smile on her face”, and “she gets us to do things we never thought we could do”.
“It was extremely emotional and I could feel myself getting a lump in my throat – everyone was reaching for hankies,” said Liz, who is married to Wayne and has two grown-up children.
The comments described her as caring and constantly there for them. There was also a big thankyou from one child called Lewis who overcame a phobia about eating vegetables thanks to Liz.
“It was an unexpected surprise to get the award,” she said. “I’ve always loved working with children and teaching is all I’ve ever wanted to do.
“When you see children with difficulties, or who have come from dysfunctional families, you just want to care for them.”
Keith Tamsett, Ryes co-ordinator and community liaison officer, said: “Liz works tirelessly for the young people in our care. She is one of life’s inspirations.”