A HUNTINGDONSHIRE teacher who was named primary school teacher of the year in the East of England has been hailed as an “inspiration”.

Ramsey Spinning Infant School foundation stage teacher Joy Smith will be among the award winners appearing on the small screen this Sunday (October 30) as part of the BBC2's coverage of the Pearson Teaching Awards.

Mrs Smith was nominated for the category of 'Teacher of the Year in a Primary School' by her pupil Makenzie Shilling.

The 58-year-old, who has been teaching at the same school for 20 years, is routinely praised by parents and is a role model for her fellow colleagues.

On Thursday, pupils and staff held a surprise assembly to present Mrs Smith with a plaque, a bottle of Champagne and flowers in honour of her achievement. Her nomination form reads: "Joy has been an enthusiastic and dedicated leading light at her school for over 16 years. As one parent commented: 'She is passionate about education'. She is always on the look out for new and exciting learning opportunities and consequently she inspires the children to aim high and achieve their full potential.

"Pupils, colleagues and parents alike love her for her imagination a creativity, [and] as one colleague said she makes a wonderful Goldilocks, she has dressed up as a fairy on Superhero Day, and her Captain Splosh had to be seen to be believed. As her former headteacher said: 'Everyone needs a Joy!'"

But Mrs Smith is modest about her achievements. "My colleagues tell me I'm always happy and enthusiastic. Everybody has said 'We are so pleased for you' and 'It couldn't have gone to a better person'. It is brilliant to be recognised. I cannot believe it."

Mrs Smith, who lives in Bury, says people underestimate how hard teachers work. It was her childhood ambition to work with children, and despite the workload, she says she never dreads going into class.

"People do not realise that you don't switch off at 3pm - very often we are doing planning and preparation. You do put a lot of hours in, a lot more than nine to five. I quite often don't come home until 5.30pm or 6pm, and then do things at home.

"I always wanted to be a teacher and I always wanted to teach infant children. I went to teacher training college, had a break when I had my children and then came here after we moved to Cambridgeshire."

A major change Mrs Smith has seen is the introduction of the National Curriculum, and numeracy and literacy targets.

"Things are a lot different, but I think for the better. Children get a brilliant education and they learn a lot quicker."

Headteacher Patsy Peres said: "It is a wonderful thing when all the hard work of teachers is recognised and appreciated by pupils and parents."