A COMMUNITY came together to pay their respects to an inspirational headteacher.
Paula Williams, principal of Whitburn Church of England Academy, died last Monday after contracting pneumonia.
Her funeral for family and friends took place in Esh Winning, County Durham, yesterday, while Whitburn Parish Church opened its doors to let people remember her.
Current and former students, colleagues and Whitburn residents flocked to the church, in Church Lane, to pay their tributes.
Mourners had the opportunity to sign the book of condolence and take time out of their day to think about all Miss Williams had achieved. Whitburn C of E Academy was closed as a mark of respect.
Former Whitburn students Danielle Jaggers and Lorna Gibson, both 19, were among the many who attended.
Waitress Lorna, who is currently taking a gap year, said: “The funeral was for family and close friends but we did want to say a last goodbye to Miss Williams. She was the best headteacher you could ever ask for.”
Danielle, who is currently training to be a teaching assistant, added: “She was a lovely lady so we just wanted to come down to the church, leave some flowers and show what she meant to us.
“She pushed us to our best.
A booklet, filled with tributes from colleagues, friends, pupils and parents was given out at the church.
Cleaner Sam Binyon, 35, from Whitburn, said it was lovely to be able to pay their respects. She added: “She was a lovely, down to earth person and a good boss.”
Colleague Jean Brettell, 55, also from Whitburn, said: “She was a pleasure to work for and it was lovely to be sitting thinking of her while the service took place in Esh Winning.”
Susan Oliver, 48, from Cleadon, whose son is in Year 8, said: “Her enthusiasm for every young person in the school really shone through and I wanted to pay my respects to her.”
Ian Smith was taught by Miss Williams almost 30 years ago, and now his 12-year-old daughter is at Whitburn C of E Academy.
Mr Smith, from Sunderland, said: “We went along to the school before Georgia started and Miss Williams gave a speech, which was very inspirational. The children thought a lot of her.”
Georgia added: “She was a really nice person and everyone has been really sad to hear the news. She treated us all the same.”
Sue Tweddle, 52, from West Boldon, attended the church with her daughter Beth.
Mrs Tweddle said: “She was a very inspirational leader and I think that staff can carry on that leadership and the vision she sowed the seed for in the Academy, which she sadly never saw officially opened.”
Beth, 11, added: “She had a good sense of humour and was a good head to everyone.”