A teacher with a growing collection of awards has thanked colleagues and pupils after winning what he called the “Oscars of teaching”.
Ray Chambers won the Gold Plato Award for Outstanding Teacher of Technology in the 2015 Pearson Teaching Awards on Sunday.
Ray, an IT teacher at Uppingham Community College, was so shocked when his name was read out at the ceremony at London’s Royal Opera House that he had be told by a television producer to go up and collect his award.
“Having watched the awards before, they usually surprise teachers at their school and that hadn’t happened in my case,” said Ray.
“I got up on the night and it was a complete shock. My wife started crying. I couldn’t believe it happened.
“I just kept looking at my wife and wondering if it was me.”
The Pearson Teaching Awards were established by Lord Puttnam CBE in 1998 and are managed by an independent charity, the Teaching Awards Trust. The aim is to celebrate excellence and promote best practice in education.
Ray was put forward for the gold award after winning silver earlier in the year. He was one of five national finalists in his category.
Space on his mantelpiece is already at a premium and Ray may soon have to invest in a trophy cabinet. In August he won a Bafta Young Game Designers Award after pupils nominated him for mentoring young people, getting them into coding and helping them with their GCSEs. And he was chosen to be part of Microsoft’s Expert Educator program, which recognises teachers who use technology in innovative ways in the classroom.
One of his innovations has been the introduction of the videogame Minecraft into the classroom. The block-building game offers a wealth of possibilities and Ray has used it to get his pupils more engaged in a variety of subjects.
It is difficult to envisage how anyone could be more dedicated to his role as an educator of the young people in his lessons, the colleagues in college and the wider community locally, nationally and globally.Uppingham Community College principal Jan Turner
One such lesson involved logic gates, which are key building blocks of a digital circuit.
Ray used a particular colour of the “stone” that players collect in Minecraft to demonstrate how logic gates worked through things they were already building, like traps and doors. He soon realised the game could be used in a range of classroom settings.
He was invited to give a talk at the British Educational Training and Technology Show, known as Bett, where he explained how Minecraft could be used in education.
Ray is now enjoying half term and reflecting on his win. But he is keen to share the accolade.
He said: “I don’t consider this a person award. It’s for the whole school.
“It really helps having great staff and pupils, and people around me who encourage me to try new things. We all bounce off each other.”
Uppingham Community College principal Jan Turner was full of praise for Ray. She said: “Since joining the staff in 2012 Ray has transformed our students’ experience of ICT and computer science. He deserves recognition for his both dedication to the cause and the huge success he has achieved with our students.
“Ray has completely transformed the ICT curriculum introducing many new aspects and revitalising existing elements. He enriches college life in many different and sometimes surprising ways.
“A regular contributor at Bett, Ray is attracting a national following for his innovative teaching techniques. Yet he still makes time for regular lunchtime sessions where budding programmers can hone their skills; ‘tinker time’ as he calls it.
“Ray consistently gives over and above to the college and to his students and the way he has energised so many young people into being creative with their IT skills is exemplary.
“He is also continually striving to find new ways to engage students and even the most reluctant learners excel in his subject, occasionally his teaching being the mechanism by which they engage with learning.
“His enthusiasm, commitment and innovation is exceptional and it is difficult to envisage how anyone could be more dedicated to his role as an educator of the young people in his lessons, the colleagues in college and the wider community locally, nationally and globally.”
The awards will be featured on BBC Two at 6pm on Sunday.