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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

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West Cumbrian school's award tribute to teaching assistant

An inspirational Dearham teaching assistant has been posthumously nominated for a prestigious education award.

OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION: Denise Clark, a teaching assistant at Dearham Primary School, who died in June

Denise Clark, 52, who worked at Dearham Primary School, died on June 28 from breast cancer.

Three weeks later, Dearham headteacher Samantha Kidd nominated Mrs Clark for the 2013 CN Group Education and Learning Awards as a tribute.

Mrs Kidd said: “She was an inspiration and not just through her illness. She was a very upbeat, fun and genuine person.

“I am nominating Denise because I can think of no one else who has ever deserved such an award or made such an outstanding contribution to the life of a school and a community.

“It wasn’t just a job for her. She always gave up her time willingly.”

Mrs Clark, who worked for the school for 10-and-a-half years, has been nominated in the teaching assistant of the year category in the awards, also known as the Golden Apples.

Mrs Clark, who was a higher level teaching assistant, was diagnosed with cancer in 2009 and went through four operations, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

In 2010 all the treatment was complete, but in October 2011 she was diagnosed with secondary cancer and told it was terminal.

Even while recuperating from illness, Mrs Clark, of Stainburn Road, Workington, was constantly in touch with the school to check up on her class.

She was particularly close to 10-year-old pupil Nathan Hadley, who suffers from autism.

She gave one-to-one support to Nathan from nursery to year six.

On a school trip to France in June, Nathan bought a yellow scarf for Mrs Clark, but she died on the final day of the trip.

Nathan gave the scarf to her family, and pupils in her class recorded a song which was played at her funeral.

Mrs Kidd said: “Denise was a great support for Nathan’s family.

“There was a community feel behind the nomination. She had built up relationships with the parents of the pupils.

“The support and depth of feeling they had for Denise was amazing.”

Her daughter Tamsin, 23, of Hartside Court, Workington, had organised a C2C cycle ride from Workington to Sunderland on June 28 to raise money for the hospital that treated Mrs Clark.

The ride was intended to raise money for the breast unit at Whitehaven’s West Cumberland Hospital and Hospice at Home West Cumbria.

Miss Clark said: “We are really proud that she has been nominated.

“If she was here, she would tell you she was just doing her job.

“To her class she was almost like a second mum. The kids just loved her.”

The shortlisted contenders were selected by a panel of judges, and winners will be revealed next month.

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