AN artist who has helped dozens of Scotland’s most vulnerable children has been named Britain’s most inspiring teacher.
Aileen Mullen, who works at Donaldson’s School in Linlithgow, has been named inspirational teacher of the year in the 2014 TES Schools Awards – the only Scottish tutor to be nominated.
The 55-year-old teacher said: “I try to make everything fun. 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.
“Each child who comes into the classroom has completely different needs and abilities.”
Ms Mullen had previously said that the news she had been shortlisted at the TES School Awards had left her “speechless”.
She also stressed that her success was not down to any secret just lots of hard work and dedication.
Delighted bosses at the school, Scotland’s national institution for children who are deaf or have communication difficulties, said progress made by Mrs Mullen’s pupils had been “astonishing”.
Margaret Burnell, interim principal, said: “Her original ideas and creative ability inspires the children and young people and their work contributes to the bright, colourful and motivating atmosphere of the school.
“Aileen is truly inspirational and there is no doubt that she deserves this recognition.”
Originally from Glasgow, she joined Donaldson’s on probation in 2008, learned British Sign Language and went on to hone her craft as a teacher.
She said one of the biggest challenges was helping pupils who are deaf or have hearing difficulties overcome significant confidence barriers and realise their talents.
But the hard work has paid off, and her pupils regularly come top in competitions in which they are pitted against their counterparts from mainstream schools.
Three of her pupils have had their work exhibited in the Scottish National Gallery as part of the Tesco Bank Art exhibition – from a total entry of 11,222 – and five emerged as winners in the Royal Hospital for Sick Children’s Art Competition.
Speaking at the time, Miss Mullen 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 syndrome.
“I think a lot of them lack confidence and it’s just bringing that out of them and inspiring them. Every year I enter them into competitions and they think they’re rubbish and can’t do it but when they’re up on the stage getting their awards, you just see their faces light up.
“I’m constantly encouraging them and praising them, and would never give them things I know they wouldn’t be capable of accomplishing.”