What does it take to become “teacher of the year”? And who gets these kinds of awards?

Well, on Saturday 25th March, the Association for Language Learning held their annual “Teacher of the year” awards, and one of the teachers who has worked with us over the last few years in the London Schools Excellence Fund Project and more recently in the Legacy Fund Project, was the lucky winner! Not only that, but the teacher who was “Teacher of the year” last year was ALSO one of our project participants, and has been a familiar face at Network for Languages London for some years.

Let me introduce Noelia Rivas and Sara Montero! Both teachers are London-based, both with a lot of classroom experience in the primary sector and both newly appointed SLEs (Specialist Lead Practitioners). But what made them stand out for this award?

Primary Languages Teacher of the Year 2017 – Noelia Rivas

Noelia has been a specialist language teacher at Sudbury Primary School for several years, taking over 700 pupils per week for an hour’s lesson in French. What makes her stand out is her passion for language teaching, which I want to exemplify in a number of different ways.

Firstly, Noelia is committed to using authentic materials as much as possible and she spends a lot of time searching for useful websites, scouring bookshops when she is in France in her effort to bring “real” French materials into her teaching. Her planning is always evolving, she responds to the pupils’ interests and her enthusiasm is contagious!

She feels it is important to endorse the many languages that are represented in her multi-cultural classrooms and so she holds a “Celebration of Mother Tongue Day” every year in order to give pupils the opportunity to talk about their home language if it differs from English. Here is a link to the case study she wrote with her colleague, Almudena Martinez, explaining how they set about organising this event and the impact it had on the pupils and their families.


During the projects run by Network for Languages London in the past few years, teachers have had the chance to reflect on their practice, using action research techniques. They have collaborated with colleagues and with mentors to identify what improvements they could make to their practice. This has led to teachers experimenting with new approaches and ideas and one of the approaches that Noelia embraced for the first time was CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning). Read her case study using the link below to find out more.



Primary Languages Teacher of the Year 2016 – Sara Montero

Sara is a specialist language teacher in her primary school, Miles Coverdale in Shepherd’s Bush. She was chosen to be an advisory teacher in Tower Hamlets for a year which position she held whilst continuing with her post at Miles Coverdale. During this time, she gained experience as a support and mentor to teachers, and has since led a number of workshops for us here at Network for Languages London at our conferences.

Sara also has great passion for languages, and is a reflective teacher who is constantly looking for more effective ways to teach. She has done some research into AIM – Accelerative Integrated Methodology- a system which uses gesture to aid memorisation – and her case study makes very interesting reading.


I have observed her teach and the results of using this method on her year 4 pupils were outstanding!

Sara also has an enthusiasm for CLIL and has pioneered some interesting work linking Art and Spanish in her school. She has opened her classroom for other colleagues to observe and learn this approach and has shared her ideas at workshops and seminars.

So, what makes these teachers stand out? Well, they are not content with the ordinary, they search for improvement, they plan lessons that are high quality and that their pupils really enjoy, and they believe that what they are doing will truly make a difference to pupils’ lives.

There are many unsung heroes of the classroom out there, doing their ordinary job in an extraordinary way, and for that we thank them, but just now it is the turn of these two teachers and we say – Well Done!


 Noelia Rivas and Sara Montero