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TERRIFIC TEACHER: Teacher celebrates 25 years at special school in Abbots Langley

 Published on: 18th January 2024   |   By: Annabel Stock   |   Category: Uncategorized

An Abbots Langley resident is celebrating 25 years as a PE teacher at a special school.

Deputy Headteacher Darren White celebrated a quarter of a century teaching at Breakspeare School in January.

Breakspeare School, which is set to double its numbers ahead of its relocation to a new site in Croxley in 2025, remained open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Darren was one of the teachers who remained working throughout this difficult time, providing education to the most vulnerable at a difficult time.

Darren, whom his wife Anne describes as ‘selfless’, ‘diplomatic and ‘enthusiastic’ with ‘the patience of a saint’, knew he wanted to teach students with special educational needs after volunteering at the National Star Centre, a hub for disability sport in Gloucestershire.

Darren moved to Breakspeare in January 1999 as a mainstream teacher but assumed the position of PE teacher when the new sports hall was built. He then moved on to become assistant Headteacher and is now Deputy Headteacher.

Life as a senior leader in a special school is varied, from leading on Safeguarding and Child Protection, to curriculum development, bus duty in the rain and helping out on lunch duties feeding students.

As one of the few male teachers in the school he has been known to double up as Father Christmas, although his lean physique has required him to plump out his costume with a duvet. His dark eyebrows have tended to blow his cover with one student saying ‘hello Darren’ as he walked into the hall in full costume. He also dons ears and a tail in his yearly role as the Spring Bunny which sees him hand out Easter Eggs. He has been teased about spraining a muscle from too much leaping about.

The Headteacher of Breakspeare School, Merja Paakkonen, joined Ann in singing Darren’s praises. She said:

“Darren has always based his work on deep aspiration to provide the students with meaningful, enjoyable and varied learning experiences.

He is passionate about developing the students’ self-esteem and independence whilst learning in fun and engaging ways.

The Sunflower Federation, Breakspeare and Meadow Wood Schools, are fortunate to benefit from Darren’s uncompromised work ethic which keeps students’ needs in the heart of his working practice. Darren has a wonderful sense of humour and his willingness to help and support not only the students but also parents and the staff is much appreciated with the school community.”

Darren was a passionate footballer but had to hang up his boots after an injury left his leg broken in two places. Darren and Anne are childhood sweethearts and Anne still remembers Darren coming to her 18th birthday party on crutches with a cast. Despite his own football career coming to an end, he has supported local Croxley football teams and seen both his boys through to U18s.

Speaking of her husband’s achievement, Ann said:

“At a time when teacher recruitment and retention is a key issue, 25 years’ service is something to celebrate.”

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