Deaf Academy teaching assistant highly commended at prestigious awards

Nikki at the awards ceremony

Nikki at the awards ceremony - Credit: Phillip Waterman/TES Awards

There were celebrations for the Deaf Academy, as teaching assistant Nikki James received a highly commended award in the Teaching Assistant of the Year category at the prestigious TES Schools Awards.

Nikki received special recognition from the judging panel and was one of only a handful of attendees on the night to be presented with the highly commended honour.

Nikki (centre) with the Deaf Academy team at the awards 

Nikki (centre) with the Deaf Academy team at the awards - Credit: TES Awards

Nikki attended the Academy as a student from the age of 13, and joined as a teaching assistant in 1996.

She was nominated for the work she does to support students and parents, including, delivering social media sign language video lessons and the development of the Academy’s BSL (British Sign Language) library to make books more accessible to deaf students.

She also holds weekly sign language classes for families, to enable them to communicate with their children, and special sign language weekends.

Sylvan Dewing, principal of the Exmouth-based Deaf Academy, said: “We are absolutely delighted for Nikki and so proud of her achievement.

"She is a fantastic role model for our young Deaf people. She works hard to support parents and the support she gives is totally authentic, as it comes from her own experience.”

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Nikki said: “I’m really delighted to receive this highly commended award.

"Having attended the academy myself, I can use my experience to support our students and their families.

"I love the work that I do. I’m a people person, and dedicating my career to supporting Deaf young people is the right thing for me.

“When I was younger people would always treat deafness as a disability and would coddle children, not giving them the independence that they needed to grow and succeed.

"This is another barrier Deaf children have faced which is why I encourage children every day to meet new targets and try new things.”

This is the third prestigious award for the Deaf Academy staff over the last year.

In November, teachers Joanna Fison and Matt Jenkins were awarded the Pearson golden national teaching award category Lockdown Hero – Learner and Community Support which was a special award created for 2021.

The award was for the innovative work in setting up online teaching and support during the height of the pandemic for the academy students.

The announcement of the awards was made live on BBC’s The One Show.