Persistent emails from an 11-year-old schoolboy earned his teacher a behind-the-scenes visit to Manchester City FC and congratulations on his teaching from former England player Mike Summerbee.
Year 6 pupil Ben Hankin, a Liverpool fan, emailed Man City after his teacher, Steve Mills (left), deputy head of William Ransom Primary School, Hitchin, won the UK Award for Teacher of the Year in a Primary School (2009). A lifelong fan and season ticket holder at Man City, Steve will get the honours on Sunday (April 11).
Ben told Man City that his classroom had an MCFC nameplate and that Steve, aged 40, who was born in Stockport, was such a devoted fan he should be honoured by the club. Steve commented: "Ben is quite a persistent chap but a really good pupil. It wasn’t until MCFC got back to him with dates that I realised this was serious stuff. It’s an honour to be recognised in this way. I’ve been a fan all my life and meeting Mike Summerbee will be amazing.
"The UK Teaching Awards was one of the best days of my life and I’ve been having a great time ever since. Thanks to Ben here’s another golden opportunity. Another dream has just come true."
According to Ben, "Mr Mills is funny and loves his sport. He makes lessons really fun and interesting so you sometimes learn things without even realising it. He encourages everyone to do their best. And he has a great saying pinned up on the wall, 'The harder you work, the luckier you will be.' You can tell he really enjoys teaching and helping us to achieve great results in all we do, either in lessons or in sport.
Ben has even got to the fans. The story will be seen by thousands of MCFC fans in the club’s programme for Sunday's home game against Birmingham City. After meeting Mike Summerbee, Steve will watch players warm up from the side of the pitch and then watch the match with his son Matthew, 13, and his parents – all devoted City fans.
Steve is also a successful sports coach at William Ransom. Ben explains: "We play a lot of sport including football. Mr Mills (with Mrs Light) are our coaches at football, cricket and lacrosse. This term we won the Hitchin Schools' Football League and got through to the county finals of the Wix Football Trophy. We have also reached the national finals of the Lacrosse Tournament for the 7th year in a row. And we have just won the sports award for ‘The School of the Year’ from the local newspaper [The Hitchin Comet]."
The judges who watched him teach last year said: "Steve Mills is a truly gifted teacher, a role model for the children, a credit to his profession and an extraordinary human being. It was a pleasure to see him teach."
Anyone can say thank you to an outstanding teacher, headteacher or teaching assistant by nominating them for a Teaching Award at www.teachingawards.com.