Inspirational teacher honoured by Oxford University wins top gong


A teacher has been honoured by Oxford University for having had an ‘inspirational’ and lasting impact on a former pupil.

Mr Matthew Southern-Myers, a geography teacher at Elthorne Park High School in West London, who previously taught at Cranford Community College in Hounslow, is one of 10 teachers from across the state school and college sector to have won a 2019 Oxford University Inspirational Teachers award.

The initiative is designed to celebrate and show appreciation for the crucial role that teachers in state schools and colleges play in encouraging talented young people’s aspirations against the odds, and helping them to realise their potential.

A selection of current first-year Oxford undergraduates were asked to nominate teachers who inspired them to apply to Oxford, drove their passion for a particular subject and supported them to prepare for the notoriously challenging interview process.

The students selected were all from state schools or colleges with low traditions of sending students to Oxford. The winners will receive their awards from Professor Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor at Oxford University on Friday, May 17 at a ceremony held at Worcester College.

Teacher Matthew Southern, and student Lucy Tirahan

Matthew was nominated by Lucy Tirahan, who he taught at Cranford Community College, who is studying English Language and Literature at Lincoln College, Oxford.

Matthew said: “I am truly stunned to have won this award and hugely grateful to Lucy for taking time out of her own life to nominate me and write such an emotive letter to do so.

“Teaching has always offered me the opportunity to make a difference to people’s lives, but to read a personal account like that really has emphasised to me the important impact all teachers have in shaping the future.

“This profession is unbelievable, it has provided me with more opportunities and experiences than I ever thought possible and I feel humbled that such an exceptional individual would highlight me as a catalyst for their success.”

Of why Matthew had such a lasting impact on her life, Lucy said: “I nominated Mr Myers not only as a thank you for the time and dedication he put into helping me throughout secondary school, but also because he deserves to be recognised for his ability to perform in his profession as well as he does.

“He was one of the key figures that were instrumental in helping me to achieve my place at Oxford, making him a perfect candidate for this award. “I am eternally grateful for the support he provided during the seven years that I was at Cranford Community College.’

Winning the award is testament to the impact that teachers can have on young people’s lives and aspirations.

Dr Samina Khan, director of undergraduate admissions and outreach at Oxford, said: “As a former teacher myself I understand the demands of the profession, and yet how fulfilling it is to work with students.

“The Inspirational Teachers Awards is one of the ways that Oxford recognises and celebrates the crucial role that teachers play in supporting students’ confidence and ambitions, to come to Oxford.

“Achieving a place at Oxford requires academic talent, and dedication so support from those around can help, particularly support from teachers.

By bedding in the love of leaning I know teachers make the experience relevant and in many cases fun. Many of our students go on to pursue careers as teachers themselves, inspired by those that have shaped their lives along the way.

“Instilling hope and igniting a lifelong passion for learning is a gift that we can never say thank you enough for, but I hope this award goes some way to showing our appreciation.

“As the programme nears its 10th year we have recognised the commitment of close to 100 teachers across the country, and it is my hope that we continue to do so for many years to come.”

Professor Louise Richardson, Oxford University Vice-Chancellor, said: “I look forward to the Inspirational Teachers Awards each year as our chance to recognise the enormous contribution teachers make by motivating, inspiring and believing in their students.

“Congratulations to all this year’s winners; their work is very much appreciated.” Matthew was full of praise for the Inspirational Teachers awards scheme.

A passionate believer in his chosen vocation, he feels that teachers in general should be celebrated more broadly.

He said: “The focus on making further education achievable and accessible to all students, regardless of background, is a hugely important one to improve social mobility and I am appreciative the Inspirational Teachers platform recognises the work that individual teachers play in this.”

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