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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

“I am committed to equipping my students with the skills they need to make a meaningful contribution to society”: Cambridge Dedicated Teacher Award nominee on championing inclusion in schools


Vidya Vinod is a teacher at Wesgreen International School in the United Arab Emirates. She was the only teacher from the United Arab Emirates to be shortlisted for the  Cambridge Dedicated Teacher Awards, 2023.

She is dedicated to supporting all learners and guiding teachers to meet the needs of learners that require special support in the classroom. In this blog, we discuss being shortlisted for the awards, her work to champion inclusion in schools and she shares a personal story of how she supported one of her students to cope with anxiety and excel as a leader and role model to other students.

Congratulations on being the only shortlisted nominee from the United Arab Emirates. How do you feel?

Being the only nominee for the award is an incredible feeling that fills me with a sense of pride and accomplishment. It’s a validation of all the hard work and effort that I’ve put into my craft, and it’s truly an honour to be recognised for my achievements. I feel grateful to be given this opportunity to showcase my talents and share them with others. This award not only serves as a personal achievement but also as a source of motivation to continue pushing myself further in my pursuits. It inspires me to strive for excellence and never settle for anything less than my best. Overall, being shortlisted for this award has left me feeling grateful, motivated, and proud of what I have accomplished so far.  

What does being a Cambridge teacher mean to you?

Being a Cambridge teacher means embodying the values of academic excellence and intellectual curiosity. It means fostering a love of learning in students and inspiring them to achieve their full potential.

As a Cambridge teacher, I am committed to providing my students with a challenging and engaging educational experience that prepares them for success in higher education and beyond. I believe in creating a supportive classroom environment that encourages collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity.

Being a Cambridge teacher also means staying up to date with the latest educational research and incorporating innovative teaching strategies into my lessons. Ultimately, it is about empowering my students to become lifelong learners who are equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to make meaningful contributions to society. 

What has been the highlight of your teaching career so far?

The highlight of my teaching career is seeing my students succeed and achieve their goals. It’s the moment when a struggling student finally grasps a difficult concept or when a student who has been working hard all semester (year) receives an excellent grade on their final exam. I always feel that teaching is a rewarding profession that allows us as educators to make a positive impact on the lives of our students.

What is a challenge for you in the classroom and regionally?

One of the biggest challenges I face in the classroom and regionally in the Middle East is the language barrier. As a non-native Arabic speaker, it can be difficult to communicate effectively with students and colleagues who speak Arabic as their first language. Additionally, cultural differences can sometimes lead to misunderstandings or miscommunications. Overall, these challenges require patience, flexibility, and a commitment to ongoing learning and growth as an educator in the Middle East.

Tell us about your work in inclusion- why are you passionate about this?

I continue to grab opportunities to celebrate diversity and continue to spread the message of inclusion on various international platforms.  I provide free counselling and intervention services for the people that need it in my community. I have helped and guided many friends and colleagues to get into their dream careers.

The work I do in inclusion has granted me the opportunity to share a stage with well-known vloggers Khalid Ameri and Salama Ameri, who are known for creating videos that are culturally appropriate. I have appeared on various TV channels and radio stations as part of my awareness sessions regarding the inclusion of ‘Students of determination’.

I also conduct sessions for parents and students on dealing with exam anxiety and positive parenting at various organisations around UAE and India. On top of that, I founded a dance group called ‘Karma’, where we train and make people from different walks of life participate in various cultural programmes.

Alongside my dance students, I performed at the United Arab Emirate’s golden jubilee celebrations in 2021.  

The work I do is inspired by a family member who is diagnosed with autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). As a child, witnessing first-hand how my family struggled due to a lack of awareness in the society we lived in disturbed me. From then on, I wanted to become a teacher who will help struggling students and support them to integrate in the classroom and school environment. When I see the smiling face of the parents of my students and their achievements, I am fuelled to do more.

Here is a short story about a student I supported:

Alexa joined our school at the beginning of Year (Grade) 10 in September 2020. She is a lovely girl who gets along with her peers. In her referral form, her teacher shared some concerns about her, such as being overly active in class and having a short attention span.

She was medically diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and anxiety.

At times of stress, she would withdraw or oversleep. Her condition became severe during exam time.  She didn’t want to do her exams and focused on negative thoughts about herself, which in turn worsened her anxiety level.

My actions and plan:

  • I developed a classroom accommodation plan for Alexa, to make teachers aware of the challenges she was dealing with.
  • I organised for Alexa to make use of the exam access arrangements. She was given 25% extra time during assessments. During the Cambridge International exams, she received the same access arrangements.
  • I encouraged her to grab an opportunity to lead a student programme in the school. This built her confidence and gave her a wide range of experiences.

The result

  • She is part of the school’s student leadership team.
  • She won the best speaker award in the Model United Nations (MUN) competition held across the United Arab Emirates.
  • She is the school’s mental health first aider.  She educates the entire school community through her powerful presentations and her own experiences.
  • She is now getting ready for her university admission with lots of achievements under her belt!

The nominations for Cambridge Dedicated Teacher Awards are closed for this year but will be open again in 2024.

Find out more about our Cambridge Dedicated Teacher Awards


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