Keith Ridley reflected on his service to Dyke House school with a tear in his eye, and said: “It is quite emotional whenever I think about it.”
The 72-year old, who is a maths teacher by trade, has calculated he has taught approximately 29,250 pupils since he arrived in Hartlepool from his hometown of Manchester in 1971.
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When he retired from teaching full-time 15 years ago, he estimated he had overseen 36,075 lessons.
“I retired from full-time teaching in 2006 mainly because I found myself working six days a week” he explained. “It was too much for me and the head at the time, Bill Jordon, soon invited me back on a part-time basis.
“People have said ‘you don’t have to do it’, but I just love teaching. I would go back in tomorrow as well. I love watching pupils suddenly understand a concept, it’s as if a light goes on. If you get one of those a day it’s worth it.”
The Principals he worked under were Chris Smythe, Joe Potter, Bill Henderson, Peter Ramsden, Bill Jordon, Andrew Jordon and, most recently, Adam Palmer.
He said: “I had been told Dyke House trained people for the army when I first started in 1971, so you had to stand up for yourself. It wasn’t true.
“It was a secondary modern school, but you had to be hard on the children, it was a community that looked after itself. Throughout my career I have treated every pupil with respect.
“During that time I always felt Dyke House was unique, all the pupils had a character and if you treated them with respect you got it back ten-fold.”
Over the years, Mr Ridley has held the position of President of the National Association of Schoolmasters and Women Teachers and sat on the Hartlepool Council’s education council.
He has two grown-up children of his own, Elaine and Christopher, and six grandchildren, who keep him busy.
Now “officially” retired he will be spending more time at the family holiday home in Ripley, North Yorkshire, and walking along the promenade at Seaton Carew.
And although Mr Ridley knew the time was right to call it a day at the half century mark, it could have been sooner.
He explained: “When we had evenings of celebration, late 90s and early 2000s, I used to invite parents to put their hands up if I taught them.
“One time I said to Bill ‘if there was ever a time when grandparents put their hands up then that might be the time to retire’. I lasted even longer than I thought after that!”
He has taught around 20 students who have gone on to become members of staff at Dyke House, including the current head Mr Palmer.
Mr Palmer said: “Keith is a remarkable man. He has had such a positive influence on the community here at Dyke House and has been such an inspiration to so many young people over the years.
“I couldn’t even begin to describe the impact he has had. He fully deserves to finally enjoy his retirement and, although he will be sorely missed, he will always be welcomed back.”
Mr Ridley, tearful as he recalled a moment Mr Palmer described him as one of his most inspirational figures during a school assembly, said: “I have no doubt the future of Dyke House is in safe hands with Adam.
“He has the respect of the pupils, the staff and, most importantly, the local community. It feels like an appropriate time to sign off.”
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