Spanish teacher Ann Maguire, 61, was due to retire in September after working at Corpus Christi Catholic College in Leeds for more than 40 years, chairman of governors Martin Dowling said.
Mr Dowling paid tribute to the “wonderful, dedicated teacher”, as did Corpus Christi headteacher Steve Mort, who said Mrs Maguire would have opposed any move towards introducing metal detectors in schools.
The killing has prompted calls to review security in schools.
Mr Mort said his view was that airport-style detectors were not necessary and people had to remember this was an “isolated” and “unprecedented” incident.
“And I think, ultimately, Ann Maguire herself, if she was asked that question, would strongly oppose any suggestion that we should have metal detectors in this school,” he said.
Mrs Maguire went to Corpus Christi as a student and, last year, the school held a celebration of her 40 years at the school. This year, Mr Dowling said, she moved to working four days a week ahead of her planned retirement in five months’ time.
Mr Mort said he last spoke to Mrs Maguire on Monday morning after a staff briefing when she was her usual “bubbly” self.
“She was enjoying the latter end of her career although I know, to Ann, her service to Corpus Christi was not a career,” the headteacher said. “She considered it to be a vocation.”
Police are continuing to question a 15-year-old boy who was arrested at the school after he was detained by staff.
The school remained open yesterday and around 750 of the 1,000 pupils turned up for lessons. All have been offered a range of support and Mr Mort said the 30 children who were closest to the incident have been intensively supported.
Students leaving last night said it had been a difficult day as they recalled Monday’s events.
Tia Hope, 14, laid flowers with her mother Paula. “It was just really depressing,” she said. “It was like no-one could believe it had actually happened.”
Tia said the headteacher brought the children together in an assembly and told them he was proud of how mature they had all been in the past 24 hours.Her mother said: “Everyone’s still just so shocked. Mrs Maguire was one of the best teachers. I really feel for her family.”
Other youngsters outside the gates stopped to look at the hundreds of bouquets of flowers spread along a 50-yard stretch of the school’s railings.
They said the school was alive with talk about how the youth who attacked Mrs Maguire walked from the back of the class and produced a knife before stabbing her several times.
They said another female Spanish teacher went to her aid.
Detective Superintendent Simon Beldon, of West Yorkshire Police, confirmed that Mrs Maguire died from multiple stab wounds. He said: “The pupils who witnessed this incident are still being interviewed by specialist officers, who are very experienced in dealing with child witnesses and will ensure that their safety is paramount.
“This is clearly an unprecedented and tragic incident which has left the school and wider community in a state of shock.”
Mrs Maguire’s death is thought to be the first time a teacher has been stabbed to death in a British classroom, and the first killing of a teacher in a school since the 1996 Dunblane massacre.
Nigel Richardson, director of children’s services at Leeds City Council, also paid tribute to Mrs Maguire.
He said: “Our thoughts and sympathies are with Ann’s family, friends and colleagues at this difficult time.
“Ann was an amazing, inspirational teacher, and a pillar of the local community and a real asset to the city of Leeds.”
Chief Inspector Nik Adams, who leads neighbourhood policing in the area, paid tribute to all the staff and pupils for coming in. He said: “This is a horrific incident. It’s unprecedented nationally but, very much in this local community, it’s something which has caused a great deal of shock and distress, as you can imagine.
“This is very much an isolated incident.”
He said the school had been found to have “absolutely no issues in terms of weapons”.
Earlier yesterday, many of Mrs Maguire’s former pupils attended mass at Corpus Christi Church, which is connected to the school. Many were in tears as the 150-strong congregation was led in prayers by Monsignor Paul Fisher.
Mrs Maguire, who was head of year 11 at the school for more than ten years, lived in the Moortown area of Leeds with her husband Donald, who is believed to be a retired maths teacher. She is understood to have two grown-up daughters – professional dancer Emma, who has been a member of the Royal Ballet since 2002, and osteopath Kerry, who also trained as a ballerina.
Mary Bousted, general- secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: “It is with deep sadness that I heard of the tragic death of Ann Maguire.
“Our deepest condolences are with Ann Maguire’s family, friends and work colleagues, as well as the pupils at the school.
“We are shocked about the death of this dedicated and loved teacher.”