University students thank their inspirational teachers

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Aiming high: The 10 teachers and the students who they inspired are pictured during the Inspirational Teachers Awards ceremony at Oxford’s St Peter’s College (image supplied)

Ten state school teachers have been honoured for their role in inspiring and encouraging students to apply to study at Oxford University.

The teachers, from across the UK, were nominated for the Inspirational Teachers Awards by current Oxford students and received their awards last month at a special ceremony at Oxford’s St Peter’s College.

The annual awards recognises the crucial role teachers and careers advisors often play in encouraging talented students. First-year Oxford undergraduates are asked to nominate teachers or careers advisors who “inspired them to apply to Oxford, fostered their passion for a particular subject, or supported them through the application process”.

The students invited to nominate teachers were all from UK state schools or colleges with a limited history and tradition of sending students to Oxford.

Among the winners this year was Debra Walsh, a French teacher at Brynteg Comprehensive School in Bridgend, Wales, who was nominated by Elis Harrington, who is now studying modern languages at Jesus College.

Elis, 19, said: “Madame Walsh always acted as the backbone for my learning, particularly at times when I had doubts about which academic path I wanted to take.

“Her faith and confidence in me drove me to believe that I could achieve great things, such as getting a place to study at Oxford University. As for my time in Oxford, so far it has been brilliant. The tutorial environment offers students the chance to explore literature and language more than they may be able to from lectures alone, which is a feature that makes Oxford stand apart.”

Ms Walsh herself added: “I am absolutely delighted to have been nominated by Elis for this award, and although it is a privilege to be recognised in this way, I feel quite overwhelmed.

“My advice to students applying to university is never think that you have set the bar too high. If you aim high and you are committed, the opportunities and rewards are immeasurable.”

The other nine winning teachers in this year’s awards are:

  • Alice Fallon, Meden School, Nottinghamshire.
  • Angeline Nicholas, Chatham and Clarendon Grammar School, Kent.
  • Bal Dhillon, Bracknell and Wokingham College, Berkshire.
  • Ceri Boyle, Ridgewood School, Doncaster.
  • Graeme Morrison, Biggar High School, South Lanarkshire.
  • Mitchell Burke, South Cheshire College, Crewe.
  • Neil Robertson, Highgate Wood School, Islington, London.
  • Peter Marks, The Ilfracombe Academy, Devon.
  • Thomas Braun, Sacred Heart High School, Newcastle.

Dr Samina Khan, director of undergraduate admissions and outreach at Oxford, said: “The Inspirational Teachers Award is one of the ways in which Oxford recognises the vital work of teachers in encouraging students to realise their potential and make a successful application to Oxford – especially those who might not initially have believed Oxford was for them.

“Achieving a place at Oxford requires dedication, and having the support of a committed teacher is, for many students, what makes the difference. Teachers motivate and inspire students with a huge range of abilities and interests, and this year’s winning teachers also clearly showed faith in all their students. They have inspired students with their creativity and enthusiasm to be the best they possibly can be and deserve recognition for that above all. I hope this award goes some way to saying thank you.”

For more information on the Inspirational Teachers Award, visit and for videos of the winning teachers and students this year, see


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