Anne Maguire – described by her beloved pupils as 'the school's own mother' – devoted her life to education. But yesterday, at her Catholic college in Leeds, a 15-year-old boy allegedly entered class, pulled out a knife, and repeatedly stabbed the married 61-year-old.
A 15-year-old schoolboy has been arrested in connection with the death at Corpus Christi Catholic College in Leeds.
Her tragic death – which is believed to be the first killing in a British classroom in modern times – has drawn emotional tributes from pupils and former students, as well as from David Cameron, who spoke of his "deep shock".
Fr Martin Moran, from Coleraine in Co Derry, who knew Mrs Maguire from his time as Chaplain in the school, said: "Often people say only positive things when someone has died – but in her case that genuinely is the truth. She really was a remarkable woman.
"She was a fantastic teacher. But also pastorally she was second to none. She was an incredible woman and really well-loved by generations of pupils at the school."
Police said Mrs Maguire, a married former head of Year 11, had been stabbed a number of times. Many described her as "the school's mother", who had joined the college straight after university and devoted her life to the welfare of pupils, staying in touch with many long after they had left.
Officers said Mrs Maguire's attacker was overpowered by teachers and arrested at the scene.
Fellow staff members were said to be in shock at the loss of the popular colleague. The 15-year-old is being questioned by detectives from West Yorkshire Police.
Pupils described hearing screams reverberating around the building when the attack happened, shattering the routine of the school day at around 11.45am.
Those attending the lesson were preparing for their Spanish GCSE in three weeks.
The attacker is said to have left the classroom after asking to do some printing.
Returning a few minutes later, he allegedly produced a knife, lunging at the teacher in front of the horrified class.
Mrs Maguire was taken to hospital by paramedics but later died from her injuries. Witnesses were receiving counselling after describing their ordeal to police.
Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "This is a truly awful thing to have happened to a teacher in the course of her work to educate the next generation.
"Appalling events like this are thankfully very rare indeed but the death of any teacher in her place of work, which should be a place of safety, is devastating."
It is understood the 15-year-old had a series of arguments with the deeply admired Spanish, RE and music teacher leading up to the tragedy.
Pupils were kept in school for the rest of the day and lessons carried on as usual following the incident.
Corpus Christi has 1,000 pupils aged between 11 and 16 and is described as having "a strong Christian and community ethos" with close links to the Catholic Church.
Mrs Maguire, who could have retired last year and was expected to retire this summer, joined Corpus Christi in 1974.
Kerrianne Ayward (17) said: "She was just lovely. She was helpful and caring and you could have a laugh with her.
"She was always there for you, even if she didn't know you very well.
"No one had a bad word for her – I mean no one. She was the heart of the school."
Georgina Kilroy (16) said her teacher broke down when she told the pupils the news that Mrs Maguire had died. She said that before then they were told a teacher had gone to hospital but lessons continued.
Many pupils burst into tears when they were told that Mrs Maguire had died in hospital. Last night, many of them staged a candlelit vigil for the teacher in the Corpus Christi church next to the school.
West Yorkshire Police described the killing as an "unprecedented event" in the city.