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Leeds Digital Skills and Sign Language tutor picks up inspirational award

Caroline Cleghorn with her Inspirational Teaching Silver Award

An adult education tutor from Leeds, who has enabled countless students to get online and others to communicate with Deaf family members and colleagues, has been given an Inspirational Teaching Silver Award.

Workers’ Education Association (WEA) tutor Caroline Cleghorn picked up the award for her exceptional contributions in teaching digital skills and British Sign Language (BSL).

Through her unwavering dedication and commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive learning environment, Caroline’s work has had a profound impact on the lives of countless adult learners in West Yorkshire and beyond.

She said:

“I’m so pleased to accept this award and am passionate about teaching with the WEA, both in digital skills and British Sign Language (BSL).

“The BSL courses have been a huge success. There’s nothing more rewarding than somebody who is living in a predominantly hearing world to learn BSL to enable them to communicate more fully in society.”

Throughout her teaching, Caroline makes learning appropriate to the real world. She’s adapted classes to teach students how to sign instructions to deaf people to enable them to take a Covid test; how to sign the Brownie promise in BSL to make the group more inclusive; and a group of mature digital skills learners how to use parking apps on their phone, including an 86-year-old man who was then able to share his learning with his son!

Alongside tutoring, Caroline’s also a WEA Education Co-ordinator. During the pandemic, she supported the training of more than 950 WEA tutors and core staff for the national team to move their work courses online and collaborated on the creation of an IT training programme that is now fundamental to the tutor recruitment process.

Caroline’s nominator for the teaching award said she has a tireless work ethic; passion for teaching; and commitment to excellence – evident in her meticulous lesson planning, innovative teaching methods, and continuous pursuit for improvement.

In digital skills Caroline has an exceptional ability to break down learning into digestible and practical knowledge, enabling students to confidently navigate the digital world. And in BSL she recognises the importance of fostering inclusivity and advocates the importance for the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community to have equal access to education.

Caroline added:

“I saw a niche in the market with BSL basic skills courses because there’s lots of people with a deaf family member who want to attend an accredited course, but the government only currently funds for one family member. This means lots of family members who don’t have the financial opportunities to self-fund are unable to fully communicate with all their family. I wanted to bring adult learning in reach to help break down isolation through learning that engages and builds communities.”

“I’ve had the privilege of teaching lots of people who have a deaf family member or work colleague in their lives. It is very rewarding to learn how the course has helped to build better relationships and assisted with their communication with one another. Equally lots of people have attended that are losing their hearing and wanting to ensure that they are prepared for when this happens.”

Simon Parkinson, Chief Executive of the WEA, presented Caroline’s award at a ceremony at Sheffield’s The Mowbray. He said:

“Caroline is a great asset to the WEA and has excelled in her work with learners, tutors, and core staff. We’re lucky to have her onboard.

“Courses like our digital skills and BSL are vital as they don’t require previous qualifications, which makes them a great entry back into education without it feeling like school. This shows why community learning is vital for the country where education sadly remains out of reach for too many.”

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