Kirsty Gaythwaite and Dr. Paul Philips were both Gold Award winners at last year’s National Teaching Awards. Kirsty is a math teacher at Goodwin Academy and was awarded the best new teacher of the year. Paul is dean of Weston College and has been awarded a lifetime achievement award. We asked both of us what it was like to win an award and share their advice for those in the profession.
What was it like to win a Gold Award?
Kirsty: There are no words to describe how I felt when I found out I won the Gold Award for Best New Teacher of the Year; I was genuinely speechless. The influx of messages, emails and phone calls I received that evening was overwhelming, from old friends, colleagues, family members and even complete strangers. I spent the rest of the evening excited and full of pride. I had won a national award! An award for simply doing what I love: teaching! It is a privilege to not only help shape my students’ success, but also to mentor student teachers and help them be the best they can be.
Paul: Finding out that I won the Gold Award was one of the most unique events of my life. Hearing it announced on the One Show and also receiving it for my leadership in higher education was a great surprise, but I also felt elated for all the talented staff and students I had the pleasure of working with during my career. It has been a privilege to be in such an esteemed company: the passion, the hunger of my fellow winners to achieve greatness for all their students, is remarkable. I really encourage those who know the people who make a difference in young people’s lives to participate in the awards – there are awards for innovation, excellence and being a little bit unique and it was a pleasure to be a part of such a celebration. special.
Can you share any advice for teachers or leaders?
Kirsty: As a new teacher it is important to reflect, as this will help you recognize your strengths, as well as areas of development that will allow you to grow and improve. I would also encourage you to talk to co-workers about how you feel or anything you worry about. They can listen, provide advice, and most importantly, connect. Finally, priority is the key. Consider what tools and techniques you can use to manage your time and reduce your workload where possible. Your well-being should be a priority, as well as that of your students.
Paul: Earning the award reinforced my belief in strong leadership and the need to do even more for students with learning difficulties and disabilities. The only thing I tell my entire management team is to look beyond expectations, believe in the impossible and that we excel when a student that others have given up on becomes one of our success stories. Contributing to that transformation of a student is truly meaningful.
What do you do to prepare your students for success?
Kirsty: I try to foster a strong sense of self-confidence in the students I teach and to be a positive presence in and out of the classroom. I also work hard to develop their resilience, helping them recognize that it’s okay to make mistakes and often these are opportunities to learn. Also, I remind them to reward themselves for accomplishments – albeit small – like finishing a job or grasping a new concept.
Paul: I believe that staff and students need to feel empowered if they want to achieve their goals. There are many ways to achieve success, but for me the key is to focus on the career and not the courses. I have created individual centers of professional excellence to connect students and their teachers to industries and employers. It is different and extends to all concerned. Suddenly there is a vitality, a hunger for success and we can help them exceed their expectations through these joint projects, with innovative and proven support.
The National Teaching Awards recognize and celebrate excellence in education. Watch the moment when Kirsty found out she had won a Gold Award in 2020.
This year’s Gold Award winners will be announced on the BBC One Show from 22 to 26 November, and you can read the Silver Award winners on Teaching awards website.