Teaching Awards: Irene Megaw wins FE Lecturer of the Year title
A college lecturer from Northern Ireland has become the first winner of a new UK-wide teaching award.
Irene Megaw, who works at the South Eastern Regional College, County Down, was named Further Education Lecturer of the Year at the 2012 Teaching Awards.
She was recognised for her work with disadvantaged young people and adults at the college's Newtownards campus.
The judges said they were "deeply affected by her capacity to turn past failure into success".
The awards, often known as the 'Oscars for Teachers' were presented in a star-studded ceremony in London on Sunday evening.'Exceptionally gifted'
The event was hosted by Claire Balding and well-known faces at the ceremony included the actor, Anna Friel, and BBC presenters Zoe Ball and Jake Humphrey.
Ms Megaw was nominated for the title by one of her students, and won ahead of more than 1,400 entrants working in further education across the UK.
The award is part of the prestigious Pearson Teaching awards but this was the first time further education lecturers have been eligible.
The judges described Ms Megaw as "exceptionally gifted at reaching the most disadvantaged young people and adults on government-sponsored programmes for the unemployed".
"She helps them to gain qualifications, value their own achievements and acquire the confidence to get off benefits and find a job," they added.
The student who nominated the Newtownards lecturer told the organisers she was simply "the best".
"Irene takes the time to listen and pushes you to succeed. She is always there when needed and doesn't treat you any differently.'Transformational teaching'
"Irene is hard but in a good way and she's just making sure you do your work. However she's there when you need to talk to her about personal things," the student added.
The 2012 Teaching Awards judges said they had witnessed "transformational teaching" in the lecturer's classes in Newtownards.
"Irene changes the lives of some of the most challenged citizens," they said.
"She has chosen to work with the some of the hardest to reach students and is clearly gifted in this demanding area of post-16 work, building the confidence and capacities of young people and adults to help them get into meaningful, productive work."
The award organisers said the County Down lecturer really got to know her students on a personal level and often helped to tackle the issues that stopped them from learning, including helping to sort out problems with social services and housing departments.
The judges said Ms Megaw's students had described her as an "incredibly supportive but extremely demanding" teacher who made them "ambitious for the next step in life".'Tireless'
She worked in banking before embarking on a second career as a lecturer in further education.
Ms Megaw was also said to be "tireless in finding and developing work placements among hard-pressed employers" for her students.
South Eastern Regional College (SERC) has over 30,000 full-time and part-time enrolments and offers a wide range of courses up to degree level.
The Teaching Awards were founded in 1998 by the film producer, Lord Puttnam, to recognise that teachers help to change lives.
The 2012 ceremony will be broadcast on BBC 2 next Sunday, 28 October.