A profoundly deaf woman who teaches at the school she attended from the age of three has been shortlisted for a national education award and named a ‘classroom hero’.
Marie Watson, who teaches at Royal School for the Deaf Derby, has beaten off competition from 700 other teachers to make the final five in the Excellence in Special Needs Education category of The Pearson Teaching Awards.
She will find out if she has clinched the title at a glittering awards ceremony in London which will be televised on BBC2 in a programme called ‘Britain’s Classroom Heroes’.
Marie, who was nominated for the award by an anonymous but grateful parent, became a pupil at the school aged just three years old and, with the exception of three years at college, has been there ever since.
She originally worked in the Ashbourne Road school as a teaching assistant and went on to qualify as an English teacher, studying in her own time and in her second language, as British Sign Language (BSL) is her first.
As well as being an outstanding teacher, Marie runs an extra-curricular drama club and leads the deaf choir – which she was a member of herself as a child.
She also runs literacy workshops for parents, develops methods to encourage reading and leads the filming of a weekly BSL Newsround video, which allows parents and pupils to know what is happening in school and has viewers all over the world.
Marie said: “I started as an education assistant and I watched the fully-qualified teachers and thought ‘I can do that’ so I went to university for six years, studying part-time.
“The fact that I am deaf means that I have a good understanding of the challenges our pupils face and I can relate to them in a way that hearing teachers perhaps wouldn’t be able to.
“I was very embarrassed when I found out I had been nominated, because there are lots of outstanding teachers in this school. It’s nice to know I have been recognised, although I have no idea how I am going to cope at the grand final. I’m nervous already.”
The Pearson Teaching Awards are an annual celebration of exceptional teachers, founded in 1998 by Lord Puttnam to recognise the life-changing impact an inspirational teacher can have on the lives of the young people they teach.
Marie and the other finalists have now been invited to a celebratory Tea at the House of Commons, before the grand final in London in October.
Previous award presenters have included former prime ministers David Cameron and Tony Blair, actresses Jenny Agutter, Alison Steadman and Joanna Lumley, and sports and TV personalities including Shirley Ballas, Davina McCall and Helen Glover.
Judges from the Pearson Awards have been into school to watch Marie teaching and interview parents, pupils, governors and staff as well as community members from the British Deaf Association.
Head teacher Helen Shepherd said: “Marie is an excellent role model to deaf children and an inspiring teacher and person. Her lessons are always positive and there is a buzz of excitement in her classroom.
“Many teachers manage a disability in their classroom, but at our school pupils can have two or more additional needs. Marie takes each new challenge in a positive and constructive way so that all pupils continue to feel valued and expectations are always high.
“She allows others to achieve and will give up her time to help them. Parents and pupils have a high regard for Marie and she has shown them that deaf people can achieve.
“She is also teaching me BSL to level three, which is no mean feat after a week at school, and that alone makes her a super teacher in my eyes.”
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