She has transformed hundreds of lives over the past 18 years thanks to her unwavering belief in each and every pupil who passed through her door.
Some of the students joining Leeds City Academy, formerly City of Leeds School, in Woodhouse, unable to speak a word of English, leaving them isolated and alone.
Over the years hundreds of children have passed through. I have a big heart and all the pupils belong in it.
But with the hard work and dedication of student progress leader Sheila Howarth many have gone on to change their lives for the better.
With a specialism in helping ‘hard to reach’ youngsters, who often show no interest in school, Sheila says she is proud of each pupil and their achievements, no matter how great or small.
And her efforts have been rewarded as she is today crowned the Leeds’ most ‘Inspiring Teacher’ following Yorkshire Evening Post’s city-wide search.
Sheila said: “Over the past 18 years hundreds of children have passed through school, and I hope I’ve inspired many to make the most of their education and lives. I believe every child is special and treat them all as an individual. I take my time getting to know the pupils and their parents and go out of my way to make them believe in themselves. I treat them like my own family.
“I really enjoy coming to work and learn something new every day. Some students come here from abroad with little or no English but with nurturing and help they leave the school with good grades and go onto college and university. I am proud to be part of that journey. I have a big heart and all the pupils belong in it. I am here as their protector, guardian and friend.”
“We heard from former pupil Neide Campino, who is now a lawyer. Neide said: “I moved from Portugal and didn’t speak a word of English.
“I struggled with integration and began losing myself. I hung around with the wrong crowd, my attitude changed and so did teacher perceptions of me.
“I became a lost cause, a troubled kid, disrespectful and unbearable. But Mrs Howarth, regardless of my actions, always believed in me and encouraged me to do better.
“Detentions, exclusions, meetings with parents, letters home and trouble, were some of the issues I overcame. Her belief in me, the fact she saw potential and refused to give up on me, made me rethink my actions, my behaviour, my whole being.
“It took lots of hard work, patience, headaches and determination to get me to realise I had potential and there was nothing stopping me.
“I managed to turn myself around and went on to win awards of excellence including student of the year. I graduated from university with a law degree and I now work in Angola for the oil and gas industry.
“Somehow Mrs Howarth saw my potential and her effort has paid off. She has been one of the biggest influences in my life and I thank her. I know she continues to do this for many others.
“Thank you for making me see a diamond in myself, even when I thought I had no value.”
Another ex-pupil Ravelle Thomas told us: “Sheila recognised I had creative talent and encouraged me to push myself to achieve my utmost potential. She went above and beyond her job by getting me involved in performances and putting my name forward for theatre/TV auditions.
“She has always been there for me. I would have not recognised my talent nor go as far as studying my BA (Hons) in Media and Performance, and graduating with a First Class Honours degree. She has had a major positive influence on my life.
“I found guidance, friendship, discipline and love in one person, she was like a mother. She is truly an exceptional person because of her sheer dedication to her students, without her I wouldn’t be working in my dream job, at a major film and TV company.
“She is a great role model, a good listener and a great confidante. Inspirational teachers do more than teach, they inspire, believe and motivate and Sheila Howarth has by far exceeded all of the above.
Adrian Sugden, principal at Leeds City Academy said: “We are incredibly proud that Sheila has won the most inspirational teacher award. It is fitting that she has been acknowledged for the difference her work makes to our students and their lives, she works hard with all our students and has boundless enthusiasm and is always willing to go the extra mile.
“Schools are challenging whatever their demographic or background and I think it is important that staff who work in schools are recognised for the difference they make, sometimes even the smallest thing they do can make life changing differences.
It’s important we also remember that without a team of staff working together towards a common goal, individuals have less chance of making these significant differences. An enormous well done because she deserves this and well done to the rest of the staff who support all our students to be and do their best, I am proud of them all.”
The Yorkshire Evening Post has teamed up with the Simply Be and Jacamo store based at the White Rose Shopping Centre in Leeds, which will see Sheila Howarth receive £250 towards a brand new wardrobe to celebrate her achievement ready for the new term.
Whatever is on the timetable, from statement sweatshirts to classic Khakis, Jacamo can offer the perfect formula while Simply Be offers classroom classics with sharp patterns and beautiful silhouettes to complete the look.
A delighted Sheila added that she was looking forward to choosing a new dress to wear to the school prom. She added: “I am very moved and touch by this award. After all these years working with young people they have honoured me.”