Some 800 people went to a headteacher’s retirement do which saw him given a helicopter ride over London.
John Saunders, 57, taught at Desmond Anderson Primary School for his entire 37-year career.
The party was held on Wednesday last week (July 22) in the field next to the school in Anderson Road, Tilgate.
Mr Saunders said he was amazed to see so many people at the event, including former pupils who were now parents.
He said of his career: “It is tremendous, a great honour to have been able to do that and to be part of nurturing children’s enthusiasm and thirst of learning, after all, it’s all about children and there are so many wonderful memories.”
He said: “The generosity and love shown to me has been overwhelming.”
The whole school, its nursery, families and former pupils gathered at the field at 11.45am.
Mr Saunders went on a surprise helicopter ride over London with his son Jason two hours later. He said the view was stunning.
The school’s deputy head Jenny Wise and chair of governors Clare Hoggan organised the trip. Parents gave money to pay for it.
Mr Saunders had joked about having a helicopter at his retirement do.
He said: “It arose out of a joke really.
“Jenny took hold of the idea and said, ‘leave it with me’ and it happened, and it’s just amazing.”
Mr Saunders shared a cream tea with his colleagues after the helicopter ride.
He was retiring from full-time teaching to spend more time with his family and thanked the school community for its ‘tremendous support over the years’.
Mr Saunders started teaching at Desmond Anderson in 1978.
He did his final teacher training placement at the school in the autumn of 1977.
He had been its deputy headteacher for 20 years and acting headteacher for the last two terms. The school’s governors asked him to take on the responsibility after the previous head retired.
Offering advice to young teachers, Mr Saunders said: “I think probably the most important thing is to make sure that you put the children first in everything that you do, because it’s all about children and they must come first.
“Everything we do must impact on their wellbeing.”
Mr Saunders has five children and 19 grandchildren, and lives with his wife in Ifield.
He planned to stay in Crawley and spend more time working on his family farm near Uckfield.
His grandparents moved to Hope Farm inHadlow Down, East Sussex, 90 years ago.
He said: “I’ve loved my job, I suppose I’ve given everything to it really - it’s a vocation so it’s all day and all night really. I feel it’s the right time to retire from full time teaching.
“I may well do a little bit of supply teaching in the future.”
Krista Elledge has been appointed to become the school’s new headteacher in September.
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