Two Weston College students-turned-lecturers have scooped major honours in the Further Education (FE) category of a prestigious national teaching awards programme.
Joe Abdulgani and Tanya Gardener have been named as Silver Teaching Award Winners in the 2014 Pearson Teaching Awards.
Joe, a lecturer in Computing, and Tanya, a Care and Early Years lecturer, were selected from among 20,000 nominees across the UK. Their selection means Weston College is the only establishment to have two people among the five FE category finalists.
The pair, who both live in Weston-super-Mare, will join their fellow Silver Award winners at the UK final of the Teaching Awards at London's Guildhall on 26th October, where 10 Silver Award winners will receive a Gold Award. The ceremony will be filmed and broadcast by the BBC.
The Pearson Teaching Awards are an annual celebration of exceptional teachers and teaching. Founded in 1999 by Lord Puttnam, they recognize the life-changing impact of an inspirational teacher on the lives of the young people they teach.
In the citations, Joe and Tanya were described as 'outstanding', 'innovative' and 'inspirational'.
Joe is "a highly gifted inspirational Computing lecturer who develops outstanding opportunities for learning. His enthusiasm and passion for his subject, together with his innovative teaching and learning strategies, ensures that learners are always highly engaged in his sessions.
"Joe has brought fresh new ideas into his classroom and constantly finds new ways to deliver his subjects in ways that fascinate and enthuse learners.
"He inspires his learners to reach their full potential inside and outside of the classroom. Students love his lessons. His nomination from one grateful student simply read: "He is EPIC"."
Award organisers said Tanya's work "is characterised by the highest ambitions for her learners, and her belief in them transfers to the students themselves, helping to build their confidence and self-belief.
"Her students love her classes and the rapport she has with learners is exceptional, maintained through a perfect balance of fun, enthusiasm for teaching, discipline, support, and a genuine interest in the young people in her classes.
"She is always introducing new and innovative ways to help her students learn. Her passion for teaching is simply limitless."
Tanya and Joe were presented with their awards at Weston College on Friday May 16, National Thank A Teacher Day.
Tanya said: "I was overwhelmed to hear that I had won this award, I am over the moon.
"To receive recognition like this for something I love doing is just amazing. It tells me that I am getting things right, and really helping our learners with their studies and development.
"I used to enjoy my lessons here when I was a student, and when I became a teacher I was determined to do everything I could to make my lessons fun; if you are enjoying yourself and having a good time, you are far more likely to take more in and learn more.
"It is hard work, and can be very challenging, but then something like this happens and I know that it's definitely well worthwhile, and that I'm hopefully motivating and inspiring others."
Tanya started at Weston College at the age of 16, completed courses in Early Years, and has been teaching at the College for five years.
Joe commented: "I'm honoured to be a Silver Award winner. Everyone wants to be considered good at their job, and to win an award is very satisfying.
"What's even more touching is the fact the award has come about mostly because of nominations from the students I am teaching; as a lecturer, the best you can hope for is that your students are learning and gaining something positive from your lessons.
"The fact that they have felt moved to nominate me gives me a tremendous sense of job satisfaction.
"I've had a long journey here at Weston College and it just keeps getting better and better."
Joe studied the BTEC National Diploma in IT Practitioners in 2004-2006, and then the Foundation Degree in Computing between 2006 and 2008.
He started teaching at Weston College through an agency in 2008, and became a permanent member of staff in 2011. Alongside his full-time teaching role, he is also studying his BSc (Hons) in Applied Computing, which he is due to complete next month (June 2014).
Dr Paul Phillips OBE, Principal and Chief Executive of Weston College, said: "Both Joe and Tanya are exemplary teachers who demonstrate the highest levels of excellence in all that they do. It is a great honour for them and Weston College to be recognised in this way. We strive to maintain the highest standards among our teaching staff so that our students benefit from some of the best quality education in the South West.
"It's even more gratifying to know that they are both former Weston College students, who have remained part of our family and have become such valued members of staff.
"To have two of the five finalists in this category, which includes people from all over the country, is a further endorsement of the quality of our teaching staff."
Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson, president of the Teaching Awards said: "I owe so much of what I've done to my fantastic teachers at school and university and it is exciting to join in celebrating what is probably the most important profession of them all."
The Pearson Teaching Awards is open to every school in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The awards were established by Lord Puttnam CBE in 1999 and are managed by the Teaching Awards Trust, an independent charity. The Trust's mission is to celebrate excellence in education.