Jackie Gray, who is currently Director of Early Years at Outwood Grange Academies Trust, has been in education for over 40 years and was the first Early Years Advanced Skills teacher (AST) in Wakefield.
Since then, Jackie’s career has gone from strength to strength but throughout it one thing has remained constant; her commitment to ensuring every child gets the best education possible.
On news of her shortlisting, Jackie said: “I am shocked. It is obviously lovely to receive this recognition but, and I mean this sincerely, the most important thing for me has always been, and will always be, the children.
“I first got into education to try and help improve the early years education system and make a difference to the lives of the children I was fortunate to work with. This has never left me and although my title and role has changed over the years, the focus never has.”
Jackie will now have the nervous wait to find out whether she has been successful in achieving either a Certificate, Bronze Award, or Silver Award, which will be announced on May 26, National Thank a Teacher Day.
All Silver Award winners are then in with a chance of being named the overall Gold Winner.
The Pearson National Teaching Awards is an annual celebration of exceptional teachers, founded in 1998 by Lord Puttnam to recognise the life-changing impact an inspirational teacher can have on the lives of the young people they work with.
This year marks its 24th year of celebrating award-winning teachers, teaching assistants, headteachers and lecturers across England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
Jackie said: “It would be lovely to be named as one of the winners, of course it would, but being shortlisted is an achievement in itself for me and one I am very proud of.”
After succeeding in teaching and leadership roles, Jackie became Lead Local Authority Consultant in 2008 and led on the implementation of systematic synthetic phonics across Wakefield Authority.
As a result the Good Level of Development increased from well below the national average to in line with the national average.
While one of her greatest achievements was leading a programme of support for the Private, Voluntary and Independent settings in Wakefield.
The aim was to raise quality and standards and increase the number of settings achieving an Ofsted grade of good or better, an aim Jackie met. Over three years, the number of settings rated good or better went from 66% to 100%!
Lee Wilson, Primary Chief Executive Principal at Outwood and the man who nominated Jackie for the award said: “Jackie is absolutely committed to ensuring all children get the best possible start to their education.
"As Director of Early Years at Outwood, she continuously underestimates the regard that this team holds her in. She truly inspires every individual whom she works with to go further and be the best that they can be.
“Without a doubt, Jackie is most alive when surrounded by children. You can literally see both her and them light up in each other's company. She loves getting to know each child and then supporting their class teacher to ensure that the provision brings out the very best - using children's talents and interests.
“She is a delight and a pleasure to work with and an inspirational person who I count myself fortunate to be able to learn from.”
Outwood Primary is no stranger to success at the Pearson National Teaching Awards, having won a Silver Award in The Award for Impact through Partnership in 2020.
The Award recognised the work of the Outwood Primary Diploma and the team’s outstanding commitment to changing the lives of the children they work with every day.
If anyone wishes to pass their congratulations on to Jackie, or has worked with her in the past and wishes to share a positive story from their time together, please email [email protected]