It was a day of celebration and of sadness on Monday, as Tudor Primary School in Sudbury bid farewell to its longest-serving teacher after 21 years of service.
A huge party was laid on by the children as a send-off to veteran early years teacher Helen Appleton, who was simultaneously marking her retirement and her 62nd birthday.
Having spent her entire teaching career at the school, even teaching the children of pupils she taught when she first started, the mother-of-four said she had seen the school through many ups and downs, but had “thoroughly enjoyed nearly every minute of it”.
“I have worked her for 21 years and I love it to pieces,” she said. “The children are amazing – they have made my job really lovely.
“Now the school is so settled and we are definitely improving in a lot of ways. I feel I am leaving it in good hands.”
Mrs Appleton first became a teacher well into her working life at the age of 40, after moving to Suffolk from London and raising a family. She emphasised that it was never too late to jump into the profession.
“It seemed impossible at the beginning, but now, looking back, you realise it can be done,” she said.
“I didn’t even have any A-levels, so that shows it’s possible for anybody. The idea that you can start later in life and still have a good career is something I really want to get across.”
She added that her fondest memories would be of all the “wonderful people” she had met and taught over the years, and she is keen to continue being part of the school in her role with the Friends of Tudor Primary School group and as a fundraiser.
“I think we have got a tremendous sense of community here, not only within the school, but also the wider community,” she said.
“Anything where the community has asked for our help, we have tried to give it. We’ve got very strong community links.”
Emma Ince, deputy headteacher, who worked alongside Mrs Appleton for 17 years, explained she had had a real impact on her own growth as a teacher, and that the school was very sad to see her go, but glad she would still be involved going forward.
“She is a real character. The children absolutely adore her,” she said.
“I started here as a newly-qualified teacher and she took me under her wing. A lot of teachers have come and gone, but we are still here. In a way, we are Tudor.
“She’s always right at the heart of big events. She is one of those people who goes the extra mile for the children.”