Our English teacher, Deb Thomas is one of the top six teachers in the UK in line to win a Pearson Teaching Award for 2016 Teacher of Year.

Deb has won the Silver Award for Excellence in Special Needs Teaching 2016 and will now go on to compete as a finalist for Teacher of the Year against hundreds of teaching professionals from schools across the UK.

We are really excited as the star-studded awards ceremony takes place in London and will be broadcast on TV in the autumn on the BBC2 programme ‘Britain’s Classroom Heroes’. Make sure you tune in!

The Pearson Teaching Awards honours exceptional teaching. Deb Thomas is one of our qualified ‘Teachers of the Deaf’ with 14 years of experience. Using innovative methods, Deb ensures our students can access educational resources through creative experiences using a combination of English and British Sign Language (BSL). Our bilingual teaching philosophy means students can understand complex texts such as Shakespeare and Of Mice and Men, as any hearing student in a mainstream school does.

For some students unravelling the mysteries of English can be a struggle as having never heard a spoken word, it is difficult to make sense of marks on a page. Deb has a clear understanding between BSL and English which helps her effectively convey to our students how to develop their English, reading, and writing skills.

Deb said, “One of the most amazing moments was when a student was reading a book, he looked up at me and said ‘I’ve just read and understood that!’. He couldn’t believe it. It’s moments like that which make me remember why I started teaching”.

Talking about her teaching style, Deb continued, “I think with my heart. I do what I feel is right by the students whether that be giving them extra time with me out of lessons or being there for them if they want to discuss something personal. If something needs to be done I get on and do it. I feel committed to my students and the Deaf Academy. This school and college is an amazing place to work. All the staff are so dedicated and I consider them to be both my friends and colleagues. It is a privilege to work here alongside them and for them to think so highly of me for this award.”

However, Deb has not just been involved with the deaf community as a teacher. Her drive and understanding of deafness comes from her Deaf daughter who is now in her 20s.

“I have been involved with the deaf community for many years.” Deb revealed. “Before I was a teacher I was involved with the National Deaf Children’s Society and ran play schemes for Deaf children. My family has campaigned for Deaf people’s rights including the march to parliament in 2001 to recognise BSL as a language and I spoke at the House of Commons about neo-natal screening for deafness. These things are very important to me.”

As a charity Exeter Deaf Academy is not funded in the same way as state schools and relies on fundraising to support its work. Deb is often found giving up her free time to support us at these fundraising events.

Tori Vince, Community and Corporate Fundraising Manager, said, “Deb, not only volunteers, she always carries out any task with such a sunny disposition and can do attitude. In the last year alone Deb has volunteered her time to support us at raffles, several collections, carol concerts and a giant waterslide – where she was practically one of the last volunteers standing after an incredibly long day. We are always extremely grateful for Deb’s support, which she always offers so generously.”

Chief Executive and Principal, Jonathan Farnhill said, “Deb is an inspirational teacher and woman. She gets the best out of our students and encourages them to accomplish more. Watching her and her class is a testament to the fact that Deaf people can achieve anything. Deb is talented, passionate and dedicated – she truly contributes beyond the classroom to the life of the Deaf Academy.