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Inspiration at Work: meet the first five learning heroes shortlisted for a FutureLearn Inspiration Award

Every day this week, we’ll be announcing the shortlisted nominations in the FutureLearn Inspiration Awards. We begin today with the Inspiration at Work category, meeting learning heroes from Canada, Gambia, Khazakstan, the USA and Zambia.


In this category, we asked FutureLearners to tell us about the supportive colleague or manager who’s pushed them further this year, helped them develop a new skill, take on more responsibility or secure a promotion. Here are our five shortlisted nominations:


Aliya: a teacher in Kazakhstan, nominated by Zhanar

Aliya and Zhanar

Zhanar (right) says: “Aliya’s been an inspiration for me since I was a novice teacher and she was my mentor. I can’t recall a moment when she’s refused to help me or give advice.

“Her devotion to teaching, enthusiasm and curiosity affected my decision to stick to my work. Whenever I had problems, Aliya was always helpful and supportive. When a student offended me, she resolved the situation with a calm look and kind words.

“She devotes all of her time to school, to her students. She set up a book club, she tutors those who have problems with English, she shows them episodes of English TV shows, and she makes videos of their dialogues, so they can see what went well.”


Anne: a supervisor in the USA, nominated by Mary

Anne and Mary

Mary (left) says: “When I met Anne, I was already 60 years old and had just painfully separated from a previous 15-year employment, which had narrowly focussed my skillset.

“Anne, younger than me, took the time and thought to realise that I was not dumb – just frozen in time. She demonstrated new technologies and skills, and pointed to new learning methods, including online classes. She re-opened my mind to possibility!

“Her support has encouraged other co-workers and supervisors to value my new abilities and new skills. And although it takes Anne longer to encourage me to find a solution than it would take her to do the work herself, she continues to allow me the learning time.”

Helen: a doctor in Gambia, nominated by Nyima


Helen and Nyima

Nyima (right) says: “Helen has been my Head of Clinical Service for three years. She introduced me to new work and encouraged me to study new things: research, pediatric care, nutrition, emergencies, resuscitation and how to write funding proposals.

“She even got a team of trainers to come all the way to the Gambia from Kenya, to teach me communications skills, which have changed my life not only at work but with my family. She also made me the lead nurse for Ebola preparation.

“Her ward rounds are like lecture sessions and Dr Helen is a hero – even her patients don’t like her to leave the ward! She always encourages me, saying: ‘You are the only woman in this clinic – show the men that you are equal.'”


Victor: a supervisor in Zambia, nominated by Brian

Victor and Brian

Brian (left) says: “As my supervisor, Victor is always motivating me to become a renowned and multi-disciplined scholar, who can one day contribute to Zambia’s development nationally and internationally.

“Having risen from a humble background to be a University of Zambia graduate, psychologist, historian and executive officer in the government, I am now a role model and bread winner in my village, supporting my own and extended family financially.

“Despite my responsibilities, Victor has encouraged me to never give up on my dreams of becoming one of Zambia’s few forensic scientists. He inspired me to take up a FutureLearn course, and lent me his personal laptop and internet connection to complete it.”


Waiyee: an urban design technologist in Canada, nominated by Mahnaz

Waiyee and Mahnaz

Mahnaz (right) says: “Waiyee connected me to FutureLearn through the Water for Liveable and Resilient Cities course, as we were working on a grant application for our community garden’s rainwater harvesting system project.

“I took up the course to help me with the grant, but I got inspired to learn more about other topics. Being a mom, with a busy household, I didn’t know how to get back towards learning, but Waiyee directed me.

“Through the course, I could see first-hand, from the convenience of my home, the developments and work being undertaken across the world and take it back to my work. Waiyee’s help and assistance helped me secure the grant for the community project. She never asked for anything in return, but only added positivity to the project.”


We’ll be announcing more shortlisted entries every day this week. Come back tomorrow to find out who made the final five in the Inspiration in Education category.

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