Tresham College lecturer Steph Lee-Vae has been shortlisted as FE Lecturer of the Year in the prestigious Pearson National Teaching Awards.
From Corby, where they are known as a skateboarder and voluntary coach at Europe’s largest indoor urban sports venue, Adrenaline Alley skate park, Steph is also an inspirational art and design lecturer at the Kettering and Corby campuses.
In lockdown, Steph set up a YouTube channel with video tutorials and digital workshops for students to access and revisit at their own pace.
This has now developed into an integrated part of lessons. Hybrid learning enables students to go through techniques in advance or after class, ensuring everyone is included and no one is left behind.
Steph’s boundless energy, prolific ideas, and networking drive the extensive list of opportunities they proactively seek and implement for students.
In terms of monitoring individual student progress, Steph not only has regular one-to-ones with students, but also holds virtual drop-ins during the holidays for students who need to catch up – ensuring everyone has the support they need to start the new term on track. What’s more, if a student doesn’t turn up to class, Steph personally calls them to find out why.
In terms of student achievements, Steph’s courses have a track record of 100% retention and achievement over the past few years, with 80% achieving a Merit or Distinction on the Level 3 course. Last year, 87.5% of Level 2 students progressed on to another course at the College and 100% of the Level 3 Graphics students progressed into year two.
Nicola Mansell, Head of Art & Design said:
“Steph consistently goes above and beyond – there are so many examples I could give you. Steph enables a very collaborative working environment, the students are really engaged, Graphics has very high levels of achievement, and student feedback is always positive.”
Steph is non-binary and an active member of The Bedford College Group’s LGBTQ+ Committee who were awarded GOLD by Stonewall for their LGBTQ+ inclusive education work. In addition, Steph is LGBTQ+ Ambassador for the Art & Design department and an advocate for ensuring all students feel safe and included.
Petra Williams, Director of Quality, Learning, Teaching and Assessment said:
“Steph is an exceptional lecturer and absolutely deserves to win this award. Steph is so dedicated to providing the best experience for each student on the course. The work they did to develop Art Mesh creative arts magazine through the Group’s ‘Risk it’ system is an example of best practice in the sector and provides exceptional international opportunities for students to publish their work.”
In terms of professional development, Steph has taken freelance teaching projects with the British Council in 2016 in Suzhou, China and in 2018 at the National Defence School in Guangdong, China. In 2017, Steph embarked on a Master’s in Fine Art Digital at UAL which expanded Steph’s practice significantly and provided a deep source of inspiration which has enriched lecturers. Steph has been the Art & Design Department’s Adobe expert since 2017 and is part of Adobe education exchange keeping their knowledge up-to-date and passing on the latest industry skills to students.
This academic year Steph faced one of the most tragic situations that a teacher can ever deal with. Lee, a terminally ill student who joined the course in September 2021, died on 23 December 2021. No amount of teacher training can ever prepare a lecturer for this set of circumstances, yet Steph met the challenge with the utmost empathy and compassion, making it their mission to ensure that Lee’s last months at College were the best they could possibly be and ensuring he achieved some lifetime goals. This included everything from fun fancy dress days, to helping Lee set up a GoFundMe bucket list page, to organising an Aegrotat award for Distinction, which was presented to Lee before he died.
What’s more, Steph involved the whole class, ensuring they were all fully supported by the PAT team and that counselling was available. The impact of Steph’s care for Lee was deeply appreciated by his family and they asked Steph to write part of the eulogy for Lee’s funeral.