Inspirational Teachers Awards 2019
The winners of the Inspirational Teachers Awards 2019 gather with the students' who nominated them, at the presentation ceremony

Image credit: Edmund Blok

Standout teachers honoured for inspiring students to Oxford success

Ten state school teachers have been honoured by Oxford University for the ‘inspirational’ impact that they and their approach to learning have had on past students.

The winners, from across the UK, were first nominated for ‘Inspirational Teachers Awards’ by current first-year Oxford students, who wanted to recognise and say thank you for the time and effort their teachers put in to supporting and encouraging their ambitions to earn a place at Oxford.

The group were presented with their honours by Professor Martin Williams, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Education at the Inspirational Teachers Awards 2019 Gala event, which was held at Worcester College, last week.

Now in its ninth year, the awards scheme is designed to celebrate and show appreciation for the crucial role that teachers in state schools and colleges play in encouraging talented young people’s aspirations against the odds, and helping them to realise their potential.

A selection of current first-year Oxford undergraduates were asked to nominate teachers who inspired them to apply to Oxford, drove their passion for a particular subject and supported them to prepare for interviews and the notoriously challenging interview process. The students selected were all from state schools or colleges with low traditions of sending students to Oxford.

One of the winners was Oliver Smith, a sociology teacher at Halesowen College in Dudley, the Midlands. He was nominated by Michael-Akolade Ayodeji, who is studying PPE at University College (UNIV).

Oliver, said: ‘I am extremely honoured and humbled to be recognised for an Inspirational Teacher Award 2019, and I would firstly like to recognise the huge achievements of the person who nominated me for this very prestigious award, Michael-Akolade, as without his commitment and astute academic abilities, this award would not be possible. I am delighted that I was able to play a role in his journey and to witness the results of his hard work, dedication and tenacity. His journey, without a doubt, was incredibly difficult at times, but with unwavering determination, Michael-Akolade has proven that all things are possible, when you are disciplined and unbreakable in your desires to achieve greatness.’

Of why Oliver had such a lasting impact on him, Michael-Akolade credited ‘his ability to relate to everyone,’ and the effort he made to go above and beyond the academic syllabus to inspire engagement.

Michael-Akolade said: ‘He would recommend books by philosophers, sociologist or fictional authors which were outside our syllabus but facilitated critical analysis of ideas and systems. This laid the foundation for my getting more engaged with the subject topics, reading around my syllabus, attending talks and seminars on interesting motions beyond the A Level scope.’

Winning the award is testament to the impact that teachers can have on young people’s lives and aspirations.

Dr Samina Khan, Director of Undergraduate Admissions and Outreach at Oxford, said: ‘As a former teacher myself I understand the demands of the profession, and yet how fulfilling it is to work with students. The Inspirational Teachers Awards is one of the ways that Oxford recognises and celebrates the crucial role that teachers play in supporting students’ confidence and ambitions, to come to Oxford. Achieving a place at Oxford requires academic talent, and dedication so support from those around can help, particularly support from teachers. By bedding in the love of leaning I know teachers make the experience relevant and in many cases fun.

‘Many of our students go on to pursue careers as teachers themselves, inspired by those that have shaped their lives along the way. Instilling hope and igniting a lifelong passion for learning is a gift that we can never say thank you enough for, but I hope this award goes some way to showing our appreciation. As the programme nears its tenth year we have recognised the commitment of close to 100 teachers across the country, and it is my hope that we continue to do so for many years to come.’

Professor Louise Richardson, Oxford University Vice-Chancellor, said: ‘I look forward to the Inspirational Teachers Awards each year as our chance to recognise the enormous contribution teachers make by motivating, inspiring and believing in their students. Congratulations to all this year’s winners; their work is very much appreciated.’

The full list of winners is:

  • Carolyn Davies of NPTC Group in Neath Port Talbot, Wales. Nominated by Abi Owen studying Music at Jesus College.
  • Claire Hurst of The Lancaster Academy in Leicester, East Midlands. Nominated by Roman Kenny-Manning studying Law with German Law at Corpus Christi College.
  • Emma Read of St Albans RC High School in Torfaen, Wales. Nominated by Laura McGriele studying English Language and Literature at Lady Margaret Hall.
  • Matthew Southern-Myers, formerly of Cranford Community College in Hounslow, London. Nominated by Lucy Tirahan studying English Language and Literature at Lincoln College.
  • Oliver Smith of Halesowen College in Dudley, West Midlands. Nominated by Michael-Akolade Ayodeji studying PPE at University College.
  • Richard Dunsterville of The Bay CE School in the Isle of Wight. Nominated by Sam Lapham studying English Language and Literature at Christ Church College.
  • Robert Fisher of Blackpool Sixth Form in Blackpool, North West England. Nominated by Callum Wardle studying Mathematics at Queen's College.
  • Simon Dawson, formerly of Springwood High School in Norfolk, East England. Nominated by Kaveeta Malhi studying Medicine at Merton College.
  • Steve Jolley of The FitzWimarc School in Rayleigh, East England. Nominated by Lewis Davies studying Law at Pembroke College.
  • Susan Orsi of Carmel College in Darlington, North East England. Nominated by Chloe Summers studying History at Brasenose College.

Inspirational Teacher Award Winners 2019