Social Purpose Award Winners – Angela and Tom

We spoke to some of our amazing Social Purpose teaching award winners to find out exactly what they do that makes them ‘teach different’…

Angela Wright and Tom Monaghan

Angela project-manages the Traineeships programme at Northern College, as well as leading the college’s Institute of Leadership and Management programmes. She recently gained acclaim from Ofsted for her work with students with complex learning needs and received the award for Embedding Diversity in her teaching practice.

Tom Monaghan and Angela Wright
Tom Monaghan and Angela Wright

Tom works with job-seekers and other groups to develop their digital literacy and confidence using ICT.  He also supports students at Northern College so that they are better able to use technology in their teaching.  He received the award for Excellence in Digital Innovation and Participation.

Me: Angela, what does embedding diversity mean to you?

Angela: For me, it’s about allowing students to be present as themselves with the freedom to develop self-awareness.  They need the space to change and be something different; but always with clear boundaries present.  I’m always very aware that I work with people who may have been oppressed, and that as a result of that oppression, their voice has been reduced or silenced completely. My job as their teacher is to create safe spaces so that people can regain or develop confidence to redefine their own identity.

Me: Is this at the heart of social purpose teaching for you?  and what does social purpose teaching mean to you Tom?

Angela: Yes, for me it is about engaging people and encouraging independent thinking through activities that allow students to relate their own life experiences (both positive and negative).  Reflexion is important, so that they can track their own progression.

Tom:  For me, my aim is to apply Social Purpose teaching to an area that is percieved to be ‘difficult’.  The perception of ICT is that it is hard; but I focus on overcoming the barriers by finding out what people actually WANT and NEED to do – rather than introducing tools for the sake of it.  The best tools for overcoming learning barriers are ultimately kindness and respect.

Tom receiving his award from Principal, Jill Westerman
Tom receiving his award from Principal, Jill Westerman

Me:  This must be difficult, Tom, in an environment that doesn’t value independent thinking and space for learning.  How do you overcome this?

Tom: I make things simple and don’t over-complicate. I get involved and sit down with my students. The classroom door is always open. I like to play music to welcome people, too.

Me:  It’s not difficult stuff, is it 🙂  I love the idea of what you are both creating, but wonder – how do you sustain this, and what happens when people move on?

Angela: I encourage my students to think about support during the course and work out where they can continue to get support afterwards. This might be through key-workers and sign-posting.  I also work on developing self-reliance and self-responsibility, through digital individual learning plans which can be taken forward and built on after the course is complete.

Me:  Tom, how do you encourage your students to get involved in social media and stick with it?

Tom:  For me it’s about encouragement and availability. I try to extend the ‘classroom feeling’ into spaces like Yammer and Facebook. Some people are very resistant, so I look for the slightest opening or expression of interest – and then sit with them one-to-one so that confidence can develop.

Me:  You’ve had great results with this approach!  Angela, finally – what do you think your biggest achievement has been as a social purpose educator?

Angela: Without doubt it’s been helping a group of trainees with learning disabilities to access the College, the workplace and their communities – to the point where their voices and opinions are finally being heard.  They have all grown in confidence and it has boosted diversity within the college too.  One of the group is undertaking some voluntary work here, and it has opened a door in terms of improving the diversity of our workforce.

Me:  Thanks to you both for sharing your inspirational teaching stories with us.


You can find out more about the outstanding teaching at Northern College and our courses by visiting our website




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