Local teachers have been given a collective pat on the back for their demanding and important work. The tribute came at the prize-presentation ceremony for Respect Our Teachers Campaign. Aimed at educating the public about the value of good teachers, it featured a Chinese essay contest, Goodwill Card Design Competition, the Hong Kong Schools Speech Festival - Respect Our Teacher Cup and the Teacher Commendation Scheme. The response was overwhelming. More than 300 schools joined the essay contest, while the card design competition attracted 7,000 entries. Michael Wong Wai-yu, chairman of the campaign committee, said he was greatly encouraged by the enthusiasm this year's campaign had generated. 'We thought the public perception of teachers has suffered recently, but this campaign has proved the situation is not that bad. 'The judges were touched by the moving teacher tributes the cards and essays presented.' Clara Ko Kar-man, six, a student at Our Lady's Kindergarten, won the first prize in the design competition. Clara's entry, in the kindergarten section, depicted her whole class taking their PE lesson outdoors and following the movements of their teacher, Miss Leung. She said: 'I love Miss Leung because she always plays with us.' Miss Leung said the design reflected Kar-man's personality. 'Little Kar-man looked very happy. There was a big smile on her face as she felt the warm sunshine in the beautiful environment she had created.' One of the guests, Professor Felice Lieh Mak, Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Teacher Education and Qualification, agreed with Mr Wong that the image of teachers, particularly those in secondary schools, had suffered in recent years. 'In the '50s and '60s we saw educators as role models, as the elite of society. 'But now, although higher education is increasingly popular and more graduate students have entered the teaching profession, good teachers are still hard to find. 'High academic qualifications do necessarily translate into effective teaching skills.' For these reasons, the establishment of a council of education professionals has been proposed to monitor the professional standards. The Provisional Legislative Council has also done its part to boost teachers' image, setting aside September 10 as Respect Our Teachers Day, starting next year.