Donaldson’s School art teacher Aileen Mullen has been named the Inspirational Teacher of the Year in the 2014 TES School’s Awards – the only Scottish teacher to be nominated.
There can be no better gift to a student who struggles with communication than helping them to make themselves heard in a way that receives national praise.
This is what Aileen Mullen has achieved through art at Donaldson’s School, which teaches students who are deaf or have communication difficulties.
“Mrs Mullen is the best art teacher I have ever had,” said one, while another added: “She has not only inspired but positively encouraged and supported me.”
Aileen believes that every student can produce art. And in her five years at the school, she has set about proving it and her results have been astonishing.
Students who failed in a mainstream setting are now achieving art qualifications.
And outside school, students with significant additional support needs have won not just local but national competitions, in which they were up against their peers from mainstream schools.
She said: “In the classroom there’s a mixture of children who are deaf, or maybe they can hear but have specific problems, or have Asperger’s.
“I think a lot of them lack confidence and it’s just bringing that out of them and inspiring them. I try to make everything fun.
Aileen added: “I always make sure that the kids pick something that they’re interested in. If a child has a particular interest, I will stick that into the curriculum to suit that child. Each child who comes into the classroom has completely different needs and abilities.”
Quiet and unassuming, Mullen does not seek attention for herself, but the staff, students and parents of the school felt that it was time she had the recognition she deserves for her fantastic work. The judges agreed.
Now in their sixth year, the TES Schools Awards aim to celebrate and reward the extraordinary innovation, dedication and hard work of those schools, individuals and teams who every day are making a real difference.