Beth Smith, an Early Years teacher for children with special needs, has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours “for doing the best job in the world”.
Beth has taught at The Forest School in Knaresborough for the last 14 years, a time which has been full of “outstanding moments” and which is “inspirational” work.
Beth said: Being with these children when they make steps forward, whether it’s small steps or huge leaps; that is such a joy. I am privileged to work with these children and their families and carers.
Learning through play is at the heart of her approach. For example, with the Grand Depart of the Tour de France less than three weeks away Beth’s pupils have been enjoying a decidedly French theme to their lessons. This week, for example, they have been tasting French cheeses, painting French flags, riding bicycles and imagining themselves on a trip to Paris.
Beth said: We decked out the hall to look like an aeroplane and we took the children to Paris for the afternoon. It has been great fun.
Beth is proud that many children who attend The Forest School go on to settle successfully in mainstream school.
Beth said: They often just need help to begin with.
Children with autism especially, find the social aspects of life very difficult and our work is to provide them with building blocks and coping mechanisms to deal with those moments of anxiety.
By making learning fun we provide children with the means to go forward and make progress.
Beth, 58, had always wanted to work at The Forest School since her own son attended. She went on to take a degree with the Open University and then her PGCE teaching qualification while bringing up her two children and eventually was given a teaching post, which was “a dream come true”.
Beth added: I was so inspired by the work here. I am delighted to be given an MBE but what we achieve is to do with team work.
Headteacher Peter Hewitt said Beth Smith was an invaluable and deeply impressive colleague.
Peter said: She epitomises the school’s philosophy which is about not judging children but rather accepting them as they are.
We simply invite them to come on a learning journey with us. We help them to arrive at a place where they are more comfortable with themselves, happy at home and integrate into a society understands them and their needs.
We want our pupils to be confident as individuals, responsible as citizens and successful as learners.
What we want here more than anything else is for the children and young people to become as independent as possible and Beth’s contribution has been, and continues to be, crucial in achieving this.
County Councillor Arthur Barker, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Schools said: We are very proud that Beth Smith has been awarded an MBE for this vitally important work.
All children in North Yorkshire, but especially the most vulnerable, deserve the highest standards of teaching and learning and teachers like Beth are at the heart of this endeavour.