‘This award is for you Miss’

Lasting legacy: Pictured are pupils Chantelle Fox, Nikkita Eaves, Courtney Mounfield, Tiffany McGawley, Ellie Duffy, Sherrieann Robinson and Abbygail Poole with teacher Gillian McGuinness, senior vice-principal
Lasting legacy: Pictured are pupils Chantelle Fox, Nikkita Eaves, Courtney Mounfield, Tiffany McGawley, Ellie Duffy, Sherrieann Robinson and Abbygail Poole with teacher Gillian McGuinness, senior vice-principal

Inspirational teacher honoured at ceremony

These schoolchildren couldn’t be prouder of the award won posthumously by their inspirational teacher.

Julie Easter touched the lives of students and staff at Unity Academy, North Shore, as she fought breast cancer not once, but twice.

She continued to support students even while having chemotherapy and made regular visits to the school, on Warbreck Hill Drive, after being given the devastating news that her cancer was terminal.

Tragically Mrs Easter died in September, at just 58-years-old.

Her fighting spirit, determination to work even after diagnosis, and her firm but fun manner with children made her the perfect winner of The Gazette’s Inspirational Teacher award in the 2014 Education Awards, her colleagues today said.

Karen Linney, a close friend of Mrs Easter and PA to the school’s principal, said: “Julie was inspirational long before she fought cancer.

“She went above and beyond to support some very vulnerable children and children from very challenging backgrounds.

“When I saw about the nominations for the awards, I thought we just have to do it.

“The students said she was brilliant and an amazing teacher and she has inspired them to keep going and work hard.

“They were really, really pleased to know she’d won.

“She has made them see that regardless of how difficult things are, you have to keep on and make the best of things, that’s how she was inspirational.”

Gillian McGuinness, senior vice principal at the school, said: “She fought and fought and fought. Even when she was having chemotherapy she’d come into school and when she knew she was terminal she’d still visit.

“It kept her going in many ways.”

Inspiring

In a nomination written for Mrs Easter for the awards, she was described as an “inspiring, committed, loyal and honest” teacher who made pupils feel “valued and important” and “always had a smile”.

Mrs Easter, who was from Marton, took up her post at Unity Academy, then Beacon Hill High School, in 2003, working as a behaviour support teacher and with children with special educational needs (SEN).

Before that she had worked as a behaviour teacher, advising schools across Blackpool.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer during Christmas 2012.

The mother-of-four juggled her work commitments with having gruelling treatment and one year later was told she was in remission.

She quickly returned to work full time.

But in February, doctors found the cancer had returned and she was given the devastating news it was terminal.

Mrs Easter died on September 23.

On the day of her funeral pupils organised a minute’s applause around the school in her honour.

Mrs McGuinness added: “Everyone was devastated.

“Julie was such a strong character and such a strong woman, she was fierce about education and children. She was an amazing woman.”

The school community at Unity Academy bonded closer during Mrs Easter’s illness, the school staff said, and their shock was compounded when a pupil was diagnosed with leukaemia this year too.

Santy Correa, 16, was also nominated for one of The Gazette’s Education Awards this year, for secondary school pupil of the year, after succeeding in his GCSEs despite taking them while undergoing treatment for leukaemia.

Mrs McGuinness said: “Our school motto is ‘in Unity we succeed’ and that has rung true.

“It’s amazing for her to have won the award, it recognises working hard and very passionately for young people.”

Mrs Easter’s daughter, Claire Hugo, 34, said it was “heartwarming” for her family, including four children and nine grand-children, to know she had touched the lives of so many people.

She said: “We were delighted for mum to be nominated.

“She worked so hard to be the best person she could be and she did inspire a lot of people, not just in teaching, so it was well deserved.

“We miss her deeply, when we’re having a low time it’s heartwarming for us as a family to know it wasn’t just our lives she touched.

“It’s great that it’s something else we can remember her by.”