A DEPUTY headteacher who has dedicated four decades to education has bid farewell to her pupils for the last time.
Denise Wilkinson has retired from her role as deputy headteacher at Blackhall Colliery Primary School, in Middle Street, Blackhall, where she has spent the past 37 years.
She has passed on her gratitude to the community of Blackhall for making her time in the village so special.
Denise, who lives in Seaton Carew, spent the first year of her teaching career as a Year 2 class teacher at Dene House Primary School, in Peterlee, before taking up her role in Blackhall in 1976.
She was initially a class teacher when she first moved to the Blackhall school and has been a deputy headteacher there since 1999, continuing in a teaching capacity up until three years ago.
Denise also spent a term as acting head four years ago, as well as a year as acting headteacher two years ago to cover maternity leave.
She also taught reception for 15 years.
Denise lives with husband Alan, a 61-year-old retired Hartlepool Borough Council housing department worker.
She has seen three generations through the doors of the school and she said working alongside the families of Blackhall will be a big miss to her.
Denise added: “I will miss working with the children and parents.
“People in Blackhall are just absolutely fantastic.
“I’ve been teaching children of the children of the children over the years.”
She added: “It just seems like two minutes since I started at the school, I don’t feel like I’ve been here for 37 years at all.”
Denise, who turns 60 in August, said she and her husband already have four holidays booked, as she settles into retired life.
They also plan to do a lot of walking.
Denise, who is mum to Michael, 30, and 27-year-old Christopher, thanked the Blackhall community for embracing her during her time working in the former mining village.
She said: “A huge thank you to the people in Blackhall for making my time here so wonderful.”