‘DEVASTATED’ children have been leaving tributes to their former teacher.

Matthew Stevenson, a teacher at Greenbank School in Hartford, died after being taken to hospital in the early hours of November 18.

The 46-year-old’s death came as a huge shock to everyone at the secondary school, which teaches children with complex learning difficulties, including pupils on the autistic spectrum.

Mike McCann, Greenbank School headteacher said: “The children are devastated.

“They know what Mr Stevenson did for them. He showed them that education in school can actually be a really fun place to be.

“And they demonstrated that by engaging in education in school and really finding themselves. And that’s down to him.”

Following his death, pupils suggested creating a memorial tree so they could share their treasured memories of Mr Stevenson.

One pupil wrote: “Mr Stevenson was not just a teacher, he was my friend. Rest in peace friend.”

Another wrote: “Goodbye Mr Stevenson, I hope you go to heaven and I hope God gives you some treats in heaven.”

Mr Stevenson worked at Greenbank School for eight years, where he was the school’s lead for English. He also taught design and technology and drama.

Mr McCann said: “He brought such a huge talent and personality to the school. I never saw him lose his patience with the children.

“He was always looking at finding the positives in some of the more challenging children at the school who perhaps haven’t had the best experiences in school before, and setting them on the path for the rest of their Greenbank careers to be very successful young people.”

Mr McCann said Mr Stevenson had a ‘profound influence’ on his life.

Sue Owen, Greenbank School’s maths lead, said: “Mr Stevenson was a much-loved, well respected member of the school community.

“He had a fantastic sense of humour and a really mischievous nature. He was always playing the fool.

“The students thought he was wonderful, without exception they did.”

Kat Gentry, teaching assistant, said Mr Stevenson had a ‘heart of gold’.

Fellow teaching assistant Wendy Newnhan said: “He was our gentle giant, looking after all of us. He was so talented and just so very perfect for our school.

“He made us feel special and safe. We will miss him beyond words.”

A special assembly was held to celebrate Mr Stevenson’s life on November 22. The school have also began a fundraising campaign to create a memorial garden.