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Vivien Gisbey of South Lee School in Bury St Edmunds is Bury Free Press Teacher of the Year while Sarah Hutchens of Thurston CE Primary Academy is top TA





The Bury Free Press is delighted to reveal its Teacher of the Year and Teaching Assistant of the Year following around 300 nominations.

The BFP launched its Top of the Class Education Awards last month to shine a light on the unsung heroes at our schools. Today, we are announcing the winners.

The BFP Teacher of the Year is Vivien Gisbey, of South Lee Prep School & Nursery, in Bury St Edmunds, and the BFP Teaching Assistant of the Year is Sarah Hutchens, of Thurston CE Primary Academy, in Thurston.

Bury Free Press reporter Mariam Ghaemi (centre right) presents the BFP Teacher of the Year award to Vivien Gisbey (centre left) at South Lee School, in Bury. Picture: Richard Marsham
Bury Free Press reporter Mariam Ghaemi (centre right) presents the BFP Teacher of the Year award to Vivien Gisbey (centre left) at South Lee School, in Bury. Picture: Richard Marsham

Mrs Gisbey, from Bury, said being named Teacher of the Year was a ‘delightful surprise’, but ‘it’s truly wonderful’.

She said: “Teaching has been my passion for 26 years, bringing immense fulfilment along the way.

“Working with children and their families, alongside dedicated and inspirational staff, has truly been a privilege in my role as reception teacher at South Lee School. Working with this wonderful age group is such a joy.”

BFP reporter Mariam Ghaemi (far right) presents the BFP Teaching Assistant of the Year award to Sarah Hutchens (centre) at Thurston CE Primary Academy. Picture: Richard Marsham
BFP reporter Mariam Ghaemi (far right) presents the BFP Teaching Assistant of the Year award to Sarah Hutchens (centre) at Thurston CE Primary Academy. Picture: Richard Marsham

She said her priority was making sure children felt safe and not afraid of making mistakes as it was a normal part of learning.

Mrs Hutchens, who has been a TA at Thurston Primary for 14 years, said she was ‘overwhelmed’ to win, adding: “It’s just nice to be thought of to be honest.”

She said: “I love my job. I enjoy working with all children of all ages. I do it because if I can make one child smile once a day that was my aim.”

Mrs Hutchens also runs the school football team every Saturday morning ‘rain or shine’, which she got involved with when her son Kieran was young, and also does a gardening club for older children.

Bury Free Press editor Barry Peters congratulated the winners, and everyone who was nominated.

He said: “We were overwhelmed with entries for this new set of awards and it was a pleasure to see so many parents, colleagues and individuals take the time to nominate a teacher or TA who deserved a pat on the back.

Bury Free Press editor Barry Peters
Bury Free Press editor Barry Peters

“We all know what a fantastic job the staff do in every school the length and breadth of West Suffolk, but the joy of having someone else tell us we are doing a great job is immense.”

Our awards judges were Dr Nikos Savvas, chief executive of Eastern Education Group, which includes West Suffolk College, and freelance education consultant Peter Dewhurst, formerly headteacher of Sebert Wood Community Primary School, in Bury.

Dr Savvas said: “Choosing just one person to win each category was incredibly difficult because the calibre of the teachers and teaching assistants was extremely high.

“It was a joy to read how so many of the nominated individuals have dedicated years, and some their entire careers, to changing the lives of young people in Suffolk. This is commendable and admirable and should be celebrated!”

Dr Nikos Savvas, chief executive of the Eastern Colleges Group. Picture: Mark Westley
Dr Nikos Savvas, chief executive of the Eastern Colleges Group. Picture: Mark Westley

He said he felt ‘truly privileged’ to have been part of these very special education awards.

Mr Dewhurst said they were ‘in admiration’ of the long years of service and dedication Mrs Gisbey had shown to her school and to the pupils – and she continued to inspire all those who worked with her.

And they were impressed by the dedication Mrs Hutchens shows to her role as a TA, both in school and outside of school hours.

Peter Dewhurst, a freelance education consultant and former headteacher of Sebert Wood Community Primary School, in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Mark Westley
Peter Dewhurst, a freelance education consultant and former headteacher of Sebert Wood Community Primary School, in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Mark Westley

As runners-up for Teacher of the Year, they chose Tom Rampley, of Hardwick Primary School, in Bury, and Stephen Catchpole, of South Lee School.

As runners-up for TA of the Year, they chose Helen Tilbrook, of South Lee School, and Wendy Harvey, of Sebert Wood Primary.

The prizes for the winners were a bottle of bubbly, a certificate, Everyman Cinema tickets and a framed picture of the winners with their class.