After leaving school with just a handful of qualifications, a Rhondda lecturer who went on to train in catering and hospitality has been recognised for her inspirational teaching and infectious enthusiasm.
54 year-old Gail Pritchard from Gelli, who works at the Rhondda campus of Coleg y Cymoedd, was named FE/HE Lecturer of the Year at Inspire! Adult Learning Awards 2014, hosted by NIACE Cymru in Llandudno.
Gailâ€™s role at the college has come full circle over the last twenty years.
She first completed a catering and hospitality course there back in 1976 when it was Rhondda College. At the end of the course, she was named Student of the Year and went on to work in a variety of catering and hospitality jobs, before coming back to Coleg y Cymoedd fourteen years later as a catering technician and becoming a tutor herself in 2002.
Gail now teaches learners with a wide range of learning difficulties and behavioural and social problems. Despite many of them having a poor track record in terms of engagement, since starting Gailâ€™s courses, the learners have consistently achieved rates approaching 100% in attendance, retention, punctuality and achievement.
She has structured the catering and hospitality course so that learners run the college restaurant three days a week, where they are encouraged to put on theme menus and special events such as afternoon teas and fundraising activities.
Jill James from Coleg y Cymoedd, who nominated Gail for the award, said: â€œGail works with infectious enthusiasm and high standards that motivate both learners and colleagues. She is a fantastic role model, both to learners and new members of staff and has made a tremendous difference to so many young learnersâ€™ lives over the years.â€
As Gail explains, â€œI didnâ€™t enjoy school and left with hardly any qualifications. I love the fact that I am now able to give the young people at Coleg y Cymoedd a much better experience of learning than I ever had. Seeing them grow in confidence and develop valuable life skills make it the most rewarding job in the world.â€
The Inspire! Adult Learning Awards are hosted by NIACE Cymru each year ahead of Adult Learners Week to celebrate the achievements of a small number of outstanding learners in Wales who have shown exceptional passion, commitment and drive for learning, often in the face of difficult circumstances. Adult Learners Week (14-22 June) is organised by NIACE Cymru with the support of the Welsh Government and the European Social Fund.
Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology, Ken Skates said:
â€œEach of these learners has a truly inspiring story. In spite of all the obstacles they faced, they make a conscious decision to change the course of their lives by learning a new skill. They are now reaping the benefits of that decision and I would like to congratulate them on the relentless hard work and dedication they have shown in pursuing their chosen career.
â€œEqually impressive are the tutors and trainers. They have given exceptional support and commitment to their learners and really have gone that extra mile in helping them achieve their full potential.â€
Cerys Furlong, Director of NIACE Cymru, said:
â€œAll of our Inspire! winners have one thing in common â€“ they recognise the real value of learning. Gail is an absolute inspiration to fellow teachers, tutors and learners and thoroughly deserves this award. Congratulations Gail, and all her fellow award winners who remind us how adult learning can transform individualsâ€™ lives.â€