Inspirational tutors celebrated at awards evening

Inspiring tutors have been recognised at this year's Inspire! Adult Tutor Awards 2017, organised by the Learning and Work Institute and held at the University of South Wales' Cardiff Campus earlier this week. 

The awards celebrate the commitment, knowledge and communication skills that inspire adult learners every day across Wales. 

Inspirational tutor Jane Sherman was named as one of the Tutors of the Year. After a career as a teacher and running her own training and coaching business, Jane joined Chwarae Teg in 2015 and is now a coach and trainer on the organisation’s Agile Nation 2 project.

Her nominator Tara Williams said: “Jane’s cohort are known as ‘007’ and they have been one of our most successful groups in terms of what they’ve achieved, gaining qualifications, skills and building their confidence. She is a charismatic leader who delivers training with spades of warmth and integrity. When a learner first arrives, to a room full of strangers, she introduces each learner as a new member to a unique support network of strong, capable working women. That is exactly what they become.” 

Jane said, “Wherever someone has reached in their career or life, learning something new will always open doors.  The most important thing new learning will give you is confidence.  With confidence you can see possibilities and make new decisions.  Workplace learning will develop your career and enhance your life.” 

Passionate tutor, Kat Keeble-Buckle, of Cardiff and Vale College, has also been named as one of the Tutors of the Year. A Lecturer in the College’s Creative Industries Department, Kat was recognised for going the extra mile for her students after giving fashion students the opportunity to get involved in the Roald Dahl City of the Unexpected event and exhibiting student paintings at the Humans of Cardiff project.  Kat has also helped her students raise hundreds of pounds for Velindre Hospital through making pillows for breast cancer patients.  

Through her continued passion for her subject and students, Kat has now established the Fashion Styling Foundation Degree at Cardiff and Vale College. 

Above all else, Kat has been recognised because of her commitment and passion for adult education.  Her mantra is that ‘it is never too late to be what we might have been’ and that it is never too late to start something new.

Kat said: “Being passionate about what you do is infectious. It has a knock-on effect.  Learners start to come out of their shells, their confidence builds and they become these epic shining stars.”

Another winner, Paula Harding, is a tutor with homeless charity Llamau at their Learning for Life Centre in Pontypridd, working with disadvantaged young people who are unable to access mainstream education or employment. 

Paula’s own journey hasn’t been straightforward, having left school with just 3 GCSEs and starting University later in life while juggling the demands of a young family.  She works with many vulnerable young people who have experienced mental health problems, substance misuse or a history of offending.

Paula said: “I am privileged to have the opportunity to help transform the lives of young people who have previously been let down while in education.  These are often young people who will have experienced personal or family issues at a crucial time in their lives, had prolonged absence due to truancy, or had very chaotic lives when going through school.

“I’m in a job I love and it’s where I’m meant to be. I would say going back into education at any level is hard and scary. Take a deep breath, put one step in front of the other and go for it. It’s only when you try something new that you learn, develop, achieve new skills and move forward”.

Much of Paula’s tutoring is about one-to-one support and the success of this is evidenced in the experience of “Joe” a young man who had been anxious, withdrawn and living in poverty. Tackling the wider issues in Joe’s life has meant he has now been able to improve his life chances, he’s achieved accreditations, gained interview techniques and learnt to use public transport. Joe is now volunteering in a charity shop and recently helped organise an open day at the L4L centre.

Inspiring Vale of Glamorgan tutor, Sarian Thomas-Jones, of Dysgu Cymraeg y Fro / Learn Welsh the Vale has also been named as one of the Tutors of the Year.

Sarian is currently a full-time Welsh tutor and, having learned the language as an adult, she is living proof of the life changing potential of adult learning after changing direction to pursue a career in teaching Welsh in the community.

After an earlier career in human resources, Sarian returned to learning after the birth of her daughter.  She came back into work, as a result of taking a Welsh class, to help her son with his homework and is now a full-time Welsh language tutor.  

One of her learners, on a beginners’ Welsh course at Palmerston Community Learning Centre, was not able to continue attending the evening class, due to her health needs.  Sarian was asked by the Learn Welsh manager to provide individual sessions for her, so that she could continue her progress.

Sarian says, “Learning something new gives the individual focus and confidence that they can carry into other parts of their lives and work.  It also gives them the skills that they need to learn, to communicate and to socialise.”

Two North Wales tutors, Sue Jones from Conwy and Jane Hand of Wrexham, have also been recognised for their commitment to education and learning. 

Sue teaches Essential Skills, Employability and Confidence Building across Conwy and Denbighshire. Despite having retired twice already Sue returned to work again because of her commitment to breaking down barriers and giving adults a second chance in life.

Sue has been recognised for going above and beyond for her learners and for a career spent working with adults who have experienced many barriers to learning, including mental health conditions, lack of confidence and drug and alcohol addiction. In the last year Sue has worked with staff at the Department for Work and Pensions to set up drop-in sessions at Rhyl Job Centre.

Sue said: “Having threatened retirement for the third time I realise that what I do is still too important to me to stop just yet. While I have learners who start to believe in their own ability and who make progress, perhaps the time isn’t right for my final retirement.”

“I learnt very early on that the only way to help people progress in any situation is to first gain their trust and then do whatever is necessary to restore confidence and self-esteem”. 

Jane was an adult learner herself after leaving school with just a few GCSEs and is now the Well-Being Manager at Ysgol Maes Y Mynydd.  After becoming a mum at 18, her journey has taken her from working in a fast food restaurant to gaining a Diploma in Counselling and Psychotherapy from Glyndwr University.

Taking on the role of Well-Being Manager at Ysgol Maes Y Mynydd, Jane realised the best way to support the children was to support the parents too.  She created the Butterflies parents group and the Back2School programme to help parents improve their lives and the lives of their families.

Through Butterflies, Jane has co-ordinated the delivery of a range of courses and engagement activities, including basic skills, up-cycling materials, learning to cook healthily, first aid training, food hygiene, safeguarding and learning Welsh.  Back2school' is a group where parents work with their children to mirror what is being learnt at school.

Her mentoring and support has encouraged parents to volunteer in the school to develop their confidence, self-worth and access to the provision which has given them the boost they needed to get out to find a job, think about career prospects, build new friendships and lead healthier lifestyles.

Jane said: “My passion for studies and bettering myself has helped me to work with the parents in the groups I run. My positivity and the ‘anyone can do anything’ attitude helps and encourages the people that I work with to feel that they are able to achieve their goals.”

The final winner is dedicated tutor Anne-Marie Edwards who has helped adults experiencing a range of challenges to build their confidence levels and to encourage them to explore and pursue further learning opportunities.  

Laura, was one of the learners who made the nomination, she says; “Annie has helped me regain confidence and encouraged me to continue my learning. Without her support my story could have been very different – I could say that she saved my life. She sensed I was going through a bad time and intervened in a most proactive and positive way. She is truly inspiring.” 

Anne-Marie herself has been through the adult education journey starting out with Counselling skills courses and finally completing a Counselling foundation degree with the Open University. She gained experience of the classroom environment working in primary schools and is currently in the final year of her PGCE. This led to a tutoring position at Palmerston Community Learning Centre in the Vale of Glamorgan two years ago. Her unique approach to teaching and her ability to engage with each of her learners is a special quality that has meant her courses have been a life-line for some. 

Anne-Marie said "I consider each student's individual needs, I get to know my students really well throughout the courses. I love teaching, I have learned so much from the people I teach, I become a better tutor because of them.” 

David Hagendyk, Director of Learning and Work Institute said, “All of this year’s winners are inspirational examples, highlighting the amazing work tutors, teachers and practitioners are doing right across Wales.  Every day they are making a difference to the lives of people in their communities and we are delighted to be able to recognise the contribution they are making. Behind every successful adult learner there is an inspirational mentor or tutor, supporting them to achieve their goals and giving them the confidence to reach further. A new commitment to lifelong learning is crucial so that we can all continue to build our skills and knowledge throughout our lives and have the confidence to contribute to our communities, build aspiration within our families, protect our health and wellbeing and have ambitions within our work. Inspirational tutors will be at the heart of this success.”