David Hermitt hails an innovative teacher who uses humour to capture her students' imagination

Grace EardleyGrace Eardley: 'making a difference'Grace Eardley, Year 11 form tutor and English and media studies teacher at Congleton High School, Cheshire, has quadrupled the number of students opting to study media at A Level from 5 to 20, and almost doubled the number studying at GCSE level from 12 to 23.

That this is only in her second year of teaching is a testament to her popularity and her reputation among the students, And it has been recognised by a nomination for the "Inspirational Teacher of the Year" category of the TES School Awards 2014 (to be announced this week).

She says she is driven by a desire to make a difference for the students both academically and for their personal development, and is "delighted" to have been shortlisted for the award. "I love capturing the students' imagination and making a difference to them both academically and for their personal development,” she says.

A quirky approach helps children learn

Some of the ways Grace Eardley does this is by using humour, the surreal and anything that is a bit different or 'off the wall'. For example, her worksheets and PowerPoint presentations often include unusual cartoons and students are allowed to use marker pens to write their essay plans on the classroom windows rather than on paper – a quirky approach which they love.

Congleton girlsCongleton girls at BBC Media CityAnd she knows that offering students new experiences and opportunities can have a great impact on their lives, which she does through the Film and Media Clubs she runs every week, after school. Pupils love attending these clubs and the chance to watch films, make broadcasts and be creative with digital technologies has allowed them to develop exceptional skills.

Other experiences she has created that her students will remember forever, are through an organised trip to the Media City, the BBC’s studios in Salford, and her involvement in the BBC News School Report Day, a collaborative project run by BBC News and BBC Learning, which gave her students the chance to make their own news reports for a real audience.

Grace is an exceptional English and media teacher whose teaching is dynamic, innovative and ambitious. She builds challenges into lessons, motivating and encouraging students so that they enjoy learning, and she is also quick to understand her students' preferred learning styles, strengths and personal interests which she then uses to build their confidence, engagement and enjoyment of learning.

Grace empowers the students she works with through her passion for her subject and always makes her lessons relevant, fun and engaging. She is also a supportive colleague. Using her special effects and technical support she helped light up last year’s production of “We Will Rock You”.

"Her lessons are amazing because she plans them very carefully"

"Grace is a fantastic teacher and we are honoured to have her on our teaching staff,” says David Hermitt, executive principal, Congleton High School and chief executive officer of Congleton Multi-Academy Trust. “She works tirelessly to ensure the success of her GCSE and A-level media students and has dramatically increased the uptake of GCSE Media as an option at the school.”

According to Jessica Probyn, one of her Year 7 media students, “Miss Eardley deserves to win this award because she helped me achieve my target level which I wasn’t meeting before. Her lessons are amazing because she plans them very carefully and we have fun while we are learning in her classroom. She is very nice, and speaks to you directly and explains what she wants you to do carefully.”

David Hermitt is executive principal of Congleton High School, an 11-18 specialist school of engineering, and chief executive officer of Congleton Multi-Academy Trust in Congleton, South East Cheshire