A much-loved headteacher of a Solihull special school gained one of the most coveted prizes in the annual Teaching Awards last night.
The ceremony, which was broadcast on BBC2, saw Peter Wright pick up the DfES Innovation Unit Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Mr Wright, who retired during the summer after 38 years in teaching, was one of three West Midland teachers scooping one of the ten awards up for grabs.
He gained the award after nominations from Hazel Oak School parents and pupils, who heaped praise upon the outgoing head.
"You have given me back my son," said one parent, while another claimed: "This school is the first place my child has ever felt safe".
To pupils at the school, Mr Wright has proved a caring and wry figurehead.
His slapstick sense of humour worked wonders with children who have delighted in his pretence of tripping up upon entering assembly and blowing his nose on his tie to lighten the atmosphere.
Most of all, judges noted Mr Wright's ability to give youngsters a sense of pride in themselves.
One former pupil wrote the following moving citation to Mr Wright: "You were, and always will be, someone to look up to.
"You gave me hope and happiness when I needed it. Good luck from the bottom of my heart with what you choose to do after leaving school.
"You will bring happiness and joy to everyone you come into contact with. I was proud to know you and proud to be at your school."
Mr Wright was also praised for his team leadership, with all members of staff feeling valued and appreciated.
Also honoured in the London event designed to highlight excellence in teaching was Christine Finnegan, named outstanding new teacher.
Ms Finnegan teaches at St Huberts RC Primary School, Warley, near Dudley.
She joined the school seven years ago as a parent volunteer and soon found herself studying to become a full-time teacher at university.
Her skill and energy has seen her take over as the school's ICT and e-learning co-ordinator and she is now setting up a pupil group to run a school newspaper.
Later this year, she takes on the duties of Key Stage Two leading teacher, advising the senior management team and staff on teaching and learning.
The third prize won in the region went to Andrew Morris for working with business and the community at West Croft Special School & Sports College, Wolverhampton.
Mr Morris was noted for his sense of adventure and for leading "brilliant" outdoor pursuits like sailing, canoeing and mountain biking.
He has also maintained good links with local business and charities to create vocational training that is " breaking new barriers".
Mr Morris has created a series of vocational workshops offering skills from embroidery to boat repair.