A POPULAR Darlington maths teacher is preparing for her third and final retirement, while a colleague at the start of her career has won a coveted award.

Having already retired twice before and returned to the profession she loves so much, Mildred Howell is retiring from Hurworth School at the end of term on Friday.

The 71-year-old has been a teacher for more than 50 years, the past 17 of which have been at Hurworth.

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Meanwhile, the school's 27-year-old food technology teacher Helen Lovick looks to have a similarly successful career in front of her.

Mrs Lovick, who is approaching the end of her first year at the school, has been named the best newly-qualified teacher (NQT) in Darlington.

Both women have been praised by the school's headteacher, Dean Judson.

Mrs Howell, who is looking forward to spending more time with her husband Walter in retirement is a former North-East teacher of the year and was awarded the MBE for her services to education.

Mr Judson said: "New entrants to the teaching profession at Hurworth are always greeted by me with the same speech, 'whenever you have the opportunity to go and see Mildred teach, please do so, because she is the best teacher I have ever seen'.

"In her time at the school, the rise in the academic performance of the maths department has been meteoric.

"The base figure when she joined was in the mid-20s for A* to C at GCSE.

"Last year, the department achieved record results of 90 per cent A* to C.

"Mildred has been the driving force behind this rise in attainment."

Asked how the profession has changed during her long career, Mrs Howell said: "I think teaching has become more pupil-focused.

"They say every child matters and that's really true.

"What I have enjoyed most is seeing children who thought perhaps the subject was not for them gaining in confidence and going on to achieve success."

Mrs Howell's influence will continue to be felt at the school even after her departure, as she has spent much of her final term at Hurworth compiling source material and worksheets for the maths department.

Still at the start of her career is Mrs Lovick, who will look back fondly on her first year at Hurworth.

She said: "There has been so much to remember about my first year, it is hard to pick out just one example.

"But I have loved every second of it."

Mr Judson added: "We have an outstanding crop of NQTs at the school this year and Helen has just pipped those and the other outstanding NQTS in Darlington schools to win this award.

"The staff and the students at the school are incredibly proud of her."