SHE met the Queen one day and was welcomed back to school by her cheering pupils the next.
Both were special moments for a Huddersfield headteacher who began life in a South African township during apartheid and has just received an OBE from the Queen.
And the most famous person honoured at the awards was 83-year-old entertainer and Strictly Come Dancing host Bruce Forsyth.
Spring Grove Junior, Infant and Nursery headteacher Hawa Bibi Laher was awarded the prestigious accolade at Buckingham Palace for her services to education.
Mrs Laher became the first Muslim Indian primary school headteacher in Kirklees.
Her school in Springwood – which has had outstanding Ofsted reports – prides itself on inclusion.
And Mrs Laher has been a good role model for children of ethnic minority backgrounds living in Huddersfield.
The school’s pupils – waving flags and banners – welcomed Mrs Laher back after she and her family travelled to Buckingham Palace to receive her medal.
Mrs Laher, who lives in Mirfield, said: “It was such an amazing experience. The Queen awarded me the medal herself – sometimes it’s done by other members of the Royal family. I really, really wanted it to be the Queen so I was very pleased.”
The mother-of-three told the Queen about the school in Springwood where she has been a headteacher since 2002.
She said: “It’s an amazing school – most of my pupils are from Pakistani heritage.
“There are 98% of children who have English as their second language and there are 15 different languages from Arabic to Vietnamese and Chinese.
“But we do amazingly and all the children are lovely and it is a fantastic school.
“The staff work really well and we have great expectations of the children, and the children are amazing and are really well-behaved and really want to learn and achieve.
“The parents are really supportive too and it’s such a community school.”
Mrs Laher grew up in Lenasia, an Indian township south of Soweto in South Africa.
Due to apartheid – the system of legal racial segregation enforced by the National Party governments of South Africa between 1948 and 1994 – there were very little opportunities for her to get a good education.
She sought further education abroad, supported by her father.
Her brother-in-law loaned her the money to buy a plane ticket to England and she stayed with an aunt in Batley.
Mrs Laher was able to obtain a grant from the UN to fund her university education – and was the first girl in her family to go to university.
She first worked as a scientist for Cancer Research, but after having her first child – a son called Aszel – she changed her career to teaching to fit in with her family life.
She said: “When I first went to look around a primary school I thought – wow – is this the education system in Britain?
“I thought it was amazing and so different to the education I had which was very formal with lots of testing and sitting on chairs all the time.”
Mrs Laher moved to Huddersfield when her husband Saied got a job at Kirklees Council.
They have three grown-up children, Aszel, Imran and Laila, who all went to school at Crowlees Junior and Infants School and Castle Hall in Mirfield.
Her first job, in 1987, was at Headlands in Liversedge.
She became deputy headteacher at Spring Grove in 1997 before becoming head in 2002.
Mrs Lahere said: “I came to England and it has been an amazing journey for me and it has ended up with an OBE.”
Also receiving an award during Thursday’s ceremony was textile and fashion designer Celia Birtwell, who was made a CBE for services to the fashion industry.