Last week saw the winners announced for the third annual Olive Cordell Awards. The award scheme came about after a legacy left to the WEA by Olive Cordell, who was herself a community studies tutor. Each year the awards recognise learning and teaching achievements in community education and return-to-learn programmes.
This year two WEA learners were chosen to receive a 'Learner of the Year Award' and one WEA tutor for 'Tutor of the Year'.
Sofia Joao is presented with her award by Chair of WEA Trustees, Professor Dick Taylor. Seated behind Sofia is Jane Cordell, daughter of Olive Cordell whose legacy to the WEA resulted in the annual achievement awards for students and tutors.
Learner of the Year 2011: ESOL
Student Sofia Joao of London was nominated by her tutor Maria Zur. Originally from Angola, Sofia came to this country as a refugee. She suffered the loss of family members in Angola and was separated from her children. Sofia studied English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) with the WEA in London. Sofia says she used the skills she gained in her ESOL course to help her with her citizenship application, thanks to which, she says, she was reunited with her children in France after having been apart for eight years.
Of Sofia's achievements her tutor Maria says:
"Sofia is a terrific example of triumph over adversity for all her fellow learners and tutors alike. She inspired her colleagues with her fantastic record of attendance, learning outside the classroom and now at a further education college. She has inspired everyone by the way she has kept going even when personal tragedy has struck."
Learner of the Year 2011: Literacy and Numeracy
This year's second student award went to Stuart Butler. Stuart is a member of MIND the mental health charity, which he joined after he sustained a serious injury whilst at work. Stuart says his accident affected his confidence and self-esteem to the extent that he became withdrawn and isolated.
When visiting MIND in Basildon, he was told about WEA classes. He soon joined a Literacy and Numeracy course provided by the WEA.
He says the course gave him a new lease of life as well as a second chance to learn after not having achieved well at school. Through his classes Stuart gained a qualification in literacy and numeracy which helped him to secure a voluntary work placement. He said he has also gained new friends in and out of the classroom.
Laraine Clark who is Stuart's tutors says:
"The first time Stuart attended classes he lacked confidence in his ability and was hesitant to participate in class discussions. Now, he actively participates in the group discussions showing his academic progress and growth in confidence."
Laraine also says that Stuart has been a support to other members of the class and is a real asset to the class, offering motivation and assistance to any who need it. She says:
"Stuart has been inspirational to the other students in the class, all of whom have seen him gain the qualifications he needed to return to work."
Tutor of the Year Award 2011
Margaret Joojo-Richards is a London-based tutor for the WEA and has received her award due to her educational work supporting migrant domestic workers, and for extending the ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) provision in Haringey.
Margaret was nominated by Tutor Organiser Benedikte Morley for her 'learner-centred' approach and her drive in making sure her students are receiving the kind of education that can help them move their lives forward positively.
For example, Margaret offers Sunday classes to make sure that students can attend on their regular day off. Many of Margaret's students left school with no qualifications and have found that Margaret's approach to teaching has helped their self-confidence and social skills as well as their academic achievement.
Attendance at Margaret's classes is high and the exam pass-rate is usually 100%, with excellent feedback from Margaret's students.
Of Margaret's work, Benedikte says:
"She is a role model for other tutors. Margaret puts the learner at the heart of everything she does and believes in the power of education to change lives. Margaret has opened doors and changed the life of many of her learners. This is because she cares deeply about what she does."
Congratulations to Sofia, Stuart and Margaret on their awards. You can read more about the winners of this year's awards in this year's Olive Cordell awards booklet.