Dan Gaze, 37, who served various roles at Falconer School in Bushey for 12 and a half years, has been nominated as the latest ‘Hotspur Hero’ for his passion and extensive work in mentoring young people with learning difficulties.

The Hotspur Heroes campaign is the Tottenham football clubs’ way to pay tribute to key workers – who also happen to be Spurs supporters – who made a major difference in their community this year.

Mr Gaze explained that he went through a “difficult period” in his life during 2002 which involved him being in prison for several months, and as he overcame it he trained as a teacher in goal to help children with social, economic and mental health (SEMH) difficulties.

He said: “I just wanted to give back and help them have the life I didn’t have and guide them on different pathways.

Watford Observer:

When he first joined Falconer School, he started out as a teaching assistant before making his way up to head of PE and later Assistant Headteacher.

Mr Gaze says that as he taught PE, he used sport as a “mentoring tool” to help boost the children, whether their ability is skilled or not. But he was also thankful for both the staff members and children at the school who helped him develop his skills and confidence to help others.

“I just wanted to give back and help them have the life I didn’t have and guide them on different pathways,” he said.

In the past, Mr Gaze won numerous other awards for his work with disabled athletes and children with other difficulties.

After his time at Falconer School gave him the opportunity to change his life around, as he moved by August 2019 to The Chiltern School in Houghton Regis to teach sports to children with special needs.

Since then he has also helped raise thousands of pounds for charities that helps keep youngsters away from drug addiction and knife crime through community football events.

The inspirational teacher said: “I think it’s important that every child should get every opportunity, whether they have special needs or not.

“When I took over at Falconers as Head of PE, I thought it was important that our students still had access to mainstream sport and got the opportunity to compete at every level, whether they have low ability or high ability.

“I used sport more as a mentoring tool – you create leaders, you get people to lead warm-ups, which gives them skills for the future to go into work, you use communication, both verbal and non-verbal, to help them progress and you get them to use sport to express themselves.

“I feel that sport is such an outlet, especially in the special needs sector, because you can use it to teach young people about self-esteem and teamwork. The motto at Falconers at the time was ‘Dream, believe, achieve’ and I thought that was a massive thing for young people to follow.”

But Mr Gaze also considered his time mentoring young children as an equal learning experience, as he said, “I got as far as I did because they helped me”.

He concluded: “It’s quite emotional for me to be nominated – I’m very proud of this. For Tottenham, who I’ve supported my whole life and who my eight-year-old son Maddox supports as well, to have noticed me and my work, I really appreciate it. I’d like to thank all the staff and in particular the young people I’ve worked with throughout my career – I believe this is deserved recognition for them too.”