Burnley teacher dies aged 49

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A much-loved teacher who dedicated her life to children at St Mary’s RC Primary School has died aged 49.

Mrs Paula Helm was herself a former pupil at the school. After training to become a teacher she returned to St Mary’s, in Holcombe Drive, where for most of her 27-year-long career she was known to parents and pupils as Mrs Giltrow-Shaw.

She spent 17 years in the nursery class and later taught Years 1 and 2 in the infant department.

Her unstinting commitment to the school led her to become the assistant head teacher, and her work as RE co-ordinator attracted glowing comments from school inspectors

Mrs Helm loved music, and always encouraged children to sing. She ran the school choir for many years and took pupils to perform in concerts and competitions, and in care homes.

“Paula was a major influence in school,” said head teacher Ian Jones. “We’re in a state of shock. She was a wonderful person, so happy, energetic and full of enthusiasm with a great sense of humour.

“We deeply miss her. She was completely dedicated to St Mary’s and to our children. She was St Mary’s through and through.”

Mrs Helm married her husband, Graham, at Easter, 2012, and shared his enthusiasm for music at their home in Bacup.

She continued to be the life and soul of the school, but in January she mentioned she was not feeling well and intended to go to see her doctor that evening.

She never returned to school, and a month later she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

She was treated at the Royal Blackburn Hospital and when her health deteriorated she was cared for in a hospice. She died in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Mr Jones broke the sad news his young pupils when they gathered for morning prayers.

The school is arranging with Mrs Helm’s family to hold an evening service at St Mary’s to celebrate her life. The date is yet to be finalised, but the service will to open to all former pupils, the parish community and anyone who knew her.

“We want to do something special for Paula,” said Mr Jones. “So many people benefited from her dedication and commitment all during her time here. We’re having it in the evening so as many people as possible can come along to celebrate Paula’s life and to pay their respects.”

As well as her husband, Mrs Helm leaves a son, Laurence (24) and daughter, Chloe (23). Her funeral will be held on Friday, September 19th, at Bacup Central Methodist Church, beginning at 9-30am. A cremation at Burnley will follow at noon.