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Teachers make lives

high-five-without-logoSue-Williamson-finalSue Williamson, Chief Executive, SSAT, writes…

Last week I completed the last visit to the finalists in the Pearson Teaching Awards – Lifetime Achievement Award. All the finalists have two things in common – they have made a real difference to the lives of the young people they have worked with, and they have dedicated their working lives to a particular community.

The testimonies that have had the most impact are from the students – past and present.

As one student wrote: “Throughout my six years, you have been one of the most loving, caring and hard working teachers I have ever known. You have not only helped me academically but personally and I think of you as more of a friend than a teacher. I thank you for all that you have done.” There were very many similar testimonies from the young people, in a school in a very deprived area of Glasgow. My taxi driver asked me if I was sure that I wanted to be taken there.

The school was an oasis at the heart of the community. It was clearly a family school with very strong, shared values. We heard some wonderful endorsements from teachers about the nominee and then we met the former students. One was a dad, who had been taught by the nominee and only decided to send his two sons to the school because she was still teaching there.

We then met Amy.

Amy suffered from terrible family difficulties – she had been taken into care, fostered, returned to her parents, who didn’t really want her; and finally made homeless at age 16. She turned to her only friend in the world – our nominee. Temporary accommodation was found and our nominee turned up with a bag of toiletries, clothes and other items to ensure that she was comfortable.

Amy survived through this unwavering support; achieved her Highers and proudly told us that she had just graduated with a 2:1 in her English degree and she is going to be a teacher of English. She was attending her graduation ceremony the following week and her two guests are our nominee and another teacher. They were taking her to lunch afterwards to celebrate.

I am not ashamed to say that I struggled to hold back the tears. Teachers save lives and make lives. SSAT has always advocated this. I was pleased to see how Callum acknowledged this in his blog – The place that defined me – about leaving Madeley Academy.

I have been so privileged to be a judge for the Teaching Awards – I have worked with Sir Alan Steer, another former headteacher, and we both agree that the dedication, professionalism, and passion that teachers have are a wonderful antidote to the sad events of recent times.

As the term draws to an end and you start to think about the summer holidays, please remember what a difference you make to the lives of the young people you work with. Thank you for all your hard work and dedication. Have a great summer holiday.

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