Aged 21, Wendy Kelly stepped foot into Bennington School for her first role as a teaching assistant, little did she know that 42 years would pass by at that very same school, leading up to her retirement aged 63.
Loved by everyone at the school, Wendy has made a huge impact on both the pupils and staff at Bennington Church of England Academy, not forgetting the many parents and governors she has met over the years.
A former hairdresser, Wendy first started out working at the school during lunch time, helping out as a dinner lady. A few months on and she was then asked to also help out with the Year One class, in a teaching assistant role.
“From then on the hours increased and the years began to roll by,” said Wendy. “I then moved on to help out in the Year Six class, as well as doing hours in the office helping out with admin and any other jobs that needed doing.”
But the best part of the job for Wendy was always working with the children.
“I especially enjoyed working with the Year Six class,” said Wendy. “They were at a great age where you could really interact with them.”
Forty two years on, and after many happy years, Wendy told current headteacher, Rebecca King just before Christmas that she was ready to retire and spend more time with her family.
“It was a hard conversation to have,” said Wendy. “Mrs King said she was sad to see me go and asked if I would change my mind, but I knew it was the right time to leave.”
Wendy, who has two grown-up children with her husband, Paul, is excited to spend more time with her family now that she is retired - including her two grandsons, Sam and Alex.
But, before she retired - Wendy had a fantastic send-off at the school, with a whole day dedicated to her retirement on the last day of term.
The school hosted a special assembly and each year group presented Wendy with a book of photographs and memories. The pupils also performed songs and poems for Wendy on the day.
Then to finish of the day, a surprise barbecue had been organised for Wendy, with invited guests including former and current staff, headteachers from over the years, governors, parents and Wendy’s close family.
“It was such a lovely surprise,” said Wendy. “It was so nice to see everybody.”
Wendy, who felt very emotional on the day, managed to hold it together until the very end.
“I did shed a few tears when I got home,” she said. “I’m very sad to leave, but I will stay in touch with everyone and will continue to visit.”
In Wendy’s name, the school has created an award called the ‘Mrs Kelly Kindness Award’, which Wendy will be asked to present each year.