A BELOVED teacher was remembered by her pupils in a spontaneous memorial service after her sudden death on Sunday.

Gill Harden, 57, from Richmond, a much-loved teacher at Risedale Sports and Community College in Catterick Garrison, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer just three weeks before her death on Sunday, April 3.

Despite students being on Easter holiday, when word spread of Mrs Harden’s death many wanted to pay their respects with a special memorial on Monday evening.

Hundreds of students, past and present, gathered at the school with flowers, candles, balloons and paper lanterns with personalised messages which were released into the sky.

Tributes to the teacher, described by one pupil as a “hero” and the “best teacher ever”, were written on cards and balloons.

Organisers of the vigil were former students Bole Vaka, 18, and Kyran Fyffe, 20, who had both been encouraged into construction careers by Mrs Harden.

Mr Vaka said: “She has done a lot for me so I wanted to do this for her.

“She got me onto a construction course when I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I set up a Facebook group chat and it just went from there – so many people turned up.”

Mr Fyffe added: “She was always there to talk to and helped with my dyslexia, she pushed me forward to do construction and I definitely wouldn't have done it without her support."

Mrs Harden’s husband Kit said he was overwhelmed when he heard about the plans.

“I was so touched. I have always referred to her as “my Gill” but in the last 24 hours it has changed to “our Gill” because of the love everyone has for her, she belongs to all of us.

“Her mantra in the last few days was the most important things in life are fun, friends and F words – and if you knew Gill you would know this summed her up perfectly.”

Mrs Harden, originally from Leith in Edinburgh, began an early career in hairdressing and spent many years in Germany where she ran a salon.

After meeting her military husband in Germany, the couple returned to the UK in 1994 for Mr Harden’s final posting in Catterick Garrison before he left.

Mrs Harden, who had two stepsons Jamie and Gary, began working at Risedale School as a linguist; taught German, IT, and supported students with career choices.

Friends and colleagues have paid tribute to their friend, with many taking part in Race for Life in June in her memory.

Sarah Cox said: “I’m devastated and heartbroken – she was so full of life and fun.”

Selena Brierley added: “Gill organised the school ski trips and we would have a brilliant time – she was well loved and respected by the students.”

Risedale School executive headteacher John Kelly said: "She was a remarkable teacher and careers advisor - over the last three years we didn't have any students leaving without work or training to go to - that's quite a feat."

A service of celebration and remembrance of her life will be held on Friday, April 15 at 6.30pm at St Mary’s Church, Richmond.

To donate to the Race for Life event visit www.justgiving.com/teams/Team-GillM-H.