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Law Teacher of the Year Award

Jane Holder of UCL has been named Law Teacher of the Year 2015.

Jane is a professor of environmental law at UCL and particularly impressed the judges with her innovative teaching and real-world impact.

The winner was announced at a lunch event in Oxford on Friday 27th February, attended by all six of the finalists, their family and colleagues, the judges, and the winner of the 2014 award, Luke Mason of the University of Surrey.

On winning the award, Jane commented that the judging process has been incredibly meaningful as it has given her the opportunity "to really reflect on my teaching - the good bits and the bits that could be improved" and to learn from the other candidates.

To find out more about any of the 2015 finalists, watch the video or click their names below.

ExpandClosePaula Blakemore

Paula Blakemore is the head of law at Birkenhead Sixth Form College and a lecturer at The Law Academy, with teaching and research interests in legal education, and tort, criminal, employment and contract law.

"The impact you have made on me is like no other. You have definitely passed your huge passion for law on to me."

Paula BlakemorePaula was nominated by the managing director of The Law Academy, where she teaches on CILEx courses, and one of her A level students, both of whom were keen to stress her ability to inspire and motivate students to raise their aspirations. Teaching in both institutions gives Paula a deep insight into different routes into law and her students benefit from this knowledge. She makes a point of understanding and catering for her students' individual needs and, thanks to her research in legal education, appreciates that a traditional career path or teaching style may not suit everyone.

To this end, she makes full use of her creative skills to produce memorable and engaging classes - from drama and dolls houses to mnemonics and memory tricks. Outside the classroom, Paula tries to expose her students to law in practice through the annual Bar Mock Trial Competition and mentoring sessions with barristers and judges. These activities have led to her students securing prestigious training, work experience and apprenticeship opportunities, and one was recently named CILEx Student of the Year.

Preparing her students first for university and then for a career in law is paramount for Paula. To replicate the practicalities of life as a lawyer, Paula insists on accurate note-taking and organisation and undertakes regular file audits. In the words of one of her students, Paula is "an inspiration".

"As a further education teacher, I am delighted to be shortlisted in such exalted company for this prestigious award. This is an opportunity to celebrate A Level law which provides a gateway to law via the academic path of higher education and the vocational path of CILEx and legal apprenticeships."

ExpandCloseAma Eyo

Ama Eyo is a lecturer at Bangor University, with teaching and research interests in public procurement policy and its regulation, company law, and contract design and management.

"Ama makes us work hard and is very demanding but we know it is for our benefit; I wish more lecturers could be like her."

Ama EyoTwo students and the head of Bangor Law School submitted Ama' nomination, which focussed on her ability to relate to her students and engage their interest in what could be a fairly dry subject. Ama makes tasks for her students "clear, relevant and meaningful" and strives to put concepts in context wherever possible. As an example, students are encouraged to consider an instance of corruption in another country and compare it to the system in the UK: this approach is designed to challenge their prejudices and preconceptions to think more critically about the law. Ama has also completely redesigned the company law syllabus, improving attendance and attracting additional interest from students in the business school.

Ama is regarded as one of the law school's "most dedicated personal tutors" and has had particular success helping international and mature students integrate into the university. She makes an effort to reach out to students by working with student societies, running seminars outside her teaching hours and inviting students to attend academic conferences.

Her experience working as a lawyer in Nigeria has given Ama both an international outlook and a wealth of industry contacts, both of which she shares generously with her students. She often uses industry contacts to help students gain valuable work experience and is regularly involved in employability initiatives on campus.

"Excellent and delightful news! This is indeed a recognition of my students´┐Ż belief and confidence in me and a reflection of the support I receive from my colleagues to assist our students to reach their full potential. I am indeed blessed to be learning so much from my students."

ExpandCloseEmily Finch

Emily Finch is a senior lecturer in law at the University of Surrey, with teaching and research interests in criminal law, evidence, cybercrime and the promotion of legal skills.

"Emily performs well in the classroom because she is empathetic to student needs and is always willing to spend time ensuring they understand."

Emily FinchEmily was nominated for the award by two of her colleagues. A major feature of Emily's nomination was her talent for incorporating all kinds of multi-media resources into her teaching, from podcasts to polling in lectures. Her colleagues particularly highlighted Emily's feedback method which goes much further than notes on a student essay. By using screencast software, Emily can record her commentary over the computerised version of the student's essay, guiding the student through exactly where they could have made improvements. This makes her feedback both "incredibly personalized" and significantly more nuanced. This method is now being used as a model across the law school and the university as a whole.

Emily also uses her technological know-how to increase student engagement by running polls that students can answer on their phones during lectures. These polls stimulate animated debate and discussion, even in large lectures.

Although Emily is always keen to experiment with technology in the classroom, this is never at the expense of face-to-face teaching. In fact, she makes a point of motivating her students to "pursue points of interest beyond the four corners of the syllabus" by facilitating regular discussion groups for students to explore media coverage of aspects of law that interest them. These discussion groups outside of class time help to develop both students' passion for law and a "mutually supportive environment".

"I am proud and excited in equal measures to be shortlisted for Law Teacher of the Year. What a wonderful job it is that means I can talk about the subject I love to such interested, curious and enthusiastic students who share the adventure of legal education with me."

ExpandCloseJane Holder

Jane Holder is a professor in environmental law at UCL, with teaching and research interests in EU environmental law, 'green' legal theory, environmental justice, and education for sustainable development.

"Jane has an innate ability to bring out the best in us - encouraging success in all possible situations and always going the extra mile."

Jane HolderJane's nomination came from her head of department and a vice dean of the law faculty at UCL. What shines through in Jane's nomination is her commitment to her subject both in her teaching and in practice. She initiated and developed the Legal Action and Research for Communities and Sustainability (LARCS) course, which gives students the opportunity to put the law into action for the good of local communities. One of her LLM students praised it as "by far the best module of the LLM" and students particularly enjoy advising community groups and publishing guides to environmental issues.

As a part of this course, Jane encourages students to research their own interests and gives them the opportunity to interact with academics, politicians and NGOs to become an integral part of a community of researchers. This cross-level communication is enhanced by innovative initiatives including residential field trips, ideas fairs and internship "speed dating" events. According to her students, Jane is a "constant pillar of support, advice, encouragement and feedback" and in 2014 she won a university-wide "student choice" award for teaching.

Jane's interest in environmental law is not purely academic. She has used her expertise to contribute to sustainability projects within UCL and with the Higher Education Academy and organised a series of seminars to discuss how to improve environmental education.

"Being shortlisted is the absolute high point of my teaching career. I have thoroughly enjoyed developing environmental education within the law degree and as well as learning a great deal I've been delighted to see students go on to carry out important work within environmental law."

ExpandCloseEsther McGuinness

Esther McGuinness is the acting head of the law school at Ulster University, with teaching and research interests in employment and public law. She is also associate director of the Ulster Law Clinic.

"Using her unique blend of personal charm, human warmth, rigorous professionalism and dogged application, Esther has created an architecture of student support."

Esther McGuinnessEsther was nominated for the award by two of her students, who underlined her dedication to demonstrating law in practice and her focus on students' futures. Through court and industrial tribunal visits, guest lectures and engaging classroom discussions, Esther is able to show how the theory learnt in class applies in the real world. As a key member of staff in the Ulster Law Clinic, she gives students "invaluable" practical experience and, as one of her nominees says, "I doubt she could have done more to influence, motivate and inspire us to share her enthusiasm".

Esther's commitment goes beyond the classroom and she is well-known for her efforts to secure work experience and internships for her students, including a recent placement for one student in New York. She endeavours to make a personal connection with all of her students and tailors her advice and feedback according to their individual aspirations. The good of the student is at the root of all Esther's teaching decisions and her head of department notes that she has always "gone above and beyond any reasonable professional expectation in pastoral care".

Alongside her teaching and management duties, Esther also makes time to attend conferences, undertake research and share best practice with other universities, all of which feeds directly into her students' learning.

"Hearing that you have been nominated for a teaching award by your students is very humbling news that underlines two things; firstly that teaching at that institution is valued; and secondly, that we motivate our students enough to want to nominate staff."

ExpandCloseNick Taylor

Nick Taylor is an associate professor at the University of Leeds, with teaching and research interests in criminal procedure, privacy and surveillance, and aspects of media law.

"Nick's enthusiasm, clarity and passion bring life to legal study and help to stir students to develop a passion for law."

Nick TaylorNominated by two of his colleagues, Nick proves that even after 20 years in the department, his passion and dedication can still inspire students. This evident passion for his subject is regularly utilised at open days, in international recruitment and in events at feeder schools. It also translates for non-law audiences, with journalism students highlighting Nick's "enthusiastic", "intellectually challenging" and "thought-provoking" teaching. Nick confronts even the most difficult challenges with ease, with one student noting that he is "great at keeping you engaged, especially for a 9am class".

His commitment to his students is clear in his weekly "open hours" to discuss work and give personalised feedback, as well as "feedback days" for his full first year cohort. Through acting as a personal tutor and working alongside the student law society, Nick deeply understands what students need, both as individuals and as a student body. Listening to and acting on student feedback has driven Nick to author action plans for the department that have significantly boosted the law school's NSS scores.

Nick has also played an instrumental role in redesigning the Leeds law curriculum as well as developing a new assessment method involving the production of a blog-style essay over 48 hours, mimicking real-life employment pressures much more effectively than a traditional coursework essay.

"It is a genuine honour even to have been nominated for this award but to be shortlisted really is special. I remember the lecturers who inspired me - they communicated their passion and commitment through their clear enjoyment of the subject. It pleases me greatly that those skills are still valued."