RFU Injured Players Foundation client John Burgess, associate assistant headteacher at Northfield School in Billingham, is one of 10 teachers nationally to receive a regional Teacher of the Year Award - and could go on to win the main prize in October.
In October 2004, John suffered a Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) after breaking his neck whilst playing rugby.
As a consequence of the accident, John became an “incomplete tetraplegic”, partially paralysed in all four limbs and wholly dependent on a wheelchair for mobility.
But inspired by teaching, John said: “This did not deter me at all.
“I gave up a lot to train to teach because it was something I absolutely wanted to do, wanted to give something back, wanted to help children understand what education can give them, show them what they can achieve, and I wasn’t going to let a little thing like paralysis stop me from carrying on with the job that I love."
"The RFU Injured Players Foundation; the charity who supported me through my injury and to this day has offered me ongoing contribution to my life and without them I wouldn't be where I am! ”
On Award a Teacher Day, Friday May 16, Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham presented John - who in his twelfth year as a teacher has been judged Outstanding by Ofsted and the local authority - with a silver Plato award, at a special assembly at the school.
In a remarkably short period of time after his injury, John was back in the classroom teaching. Staff say he makes light of his injuries so that students and staff no longer see the wheelchair when they talk to him.
Headteacher Craig Walker said: “I have known John for a very long time; indeed he was a trainee teacher with me prior to his accident.
“I am inspired on a daily basis by him. I truly do not believe that I have the strength of will, or courage to achieve what he has already done, or what he is capable of on a daily basis at my school.
“I cannot think of anyone I’ve worked with who deserves this award more than John.
“I would not be surprised if he won the national award in October.”
The Pearson Teacher of the Year awards gathers together every teacher sent a thank you as part of a ‘Thank a Teacher’ campaign - with a team of judges selecting the outstanding candidates.
The national winners are announced at a ceremony screened on BBC2 in October