Let Teachers SHINE winner 2021: Lucy Huelin – Vocabulous

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A teacher from York has won £25,000 to help her build an innovative website aimed at building the language skills of disadvantaged children.

Lucy Huelin, a classics teacher at Bootham School, has won the national Let Teachers SHINE awards, run by the education charity SHINE and supported by Tes, which awards grants to teachers with brilliant ideas to help disadvantaged students succeed at school.

Lucy will use the funding to create Vocabulous, a “fun and engaging website which uses Latin roots to help Year 7 students improve and expand their vocabulary”.

Using videos, quizzes and games, students will learn root words and their derivatives, hone skills to work out new words and compete to climb the leaderboard.

“I’m incredibly excited to have won Let Teachers SHINE,” said Lucy.

“When you’ve got an idea that you think has legs and could make a difference, it is amazing to be given the support, the money, the contacts and the platform to actually enable it to happen.”

Lucy, who previously worked as a Chartered Accountant and is originally from Blackpool, is only in her second year of teaching – a profession she is passionate about.

“I feel that the education I received gave me countless opportunities. Now I want to put my energy into producing this website to help others.”

I feel that the education I received gave me countless opportunities. Now I want to put my energy into producing this website to help others.

Lucy Huelin Let Teachers SHINE winner

Lucy was inspired to create Vocabulous after seeing how using Latin root patterns helped students’ English vocabulary. The website uses these patterns to teach students the skills to work out unknown words.

She hopes many secondary schools will use the site, once the prototype has been trialled in two York schools with a high proportion of disadvantaged students.

“For those students who are arriving at secondary school with a word gap, explicit vocabulary learning is massively important, as a boost for them at the start of Year 7.”

“So, I’d love for as many schools as possible to use this resource, as I think it could be helpful for lots of students.”

Lucy says a strong vocabulary is vital for students studying any subject. “If students have a poor vocabulary, then it could be that they’re not understanding what they’re reading in textbooks or not accessing the content of their lessons. And then, of course, if children don’t understand, it can lead to behavioural issues.

“Later in life, having a poor vocabulary can affect your employment prospects, it can affect wellbeing, it’s linked to your future pay, and so on.”

Helen Rafferty, Interim Chief Executive of SHINE, said: “Congratulations to all the winners of this year’s Let Teachers SHINE competition. The awards were held during some of the most challenging times teachers have ever faced, making the quality of the applications all the more impressive.

“Each of the teachers who took part in the competition demonstrated their innovation and commitment to really make a difference to the futures of children from low-income families.

“We look forward to working with the winners to help them develop their ideas and help hundreds of children to succeed at school.”

As well as financial support, SHINE provides Let Teachers SHINE winners with free access to a range of development workshops and coaching opportunities to help develop their ideas.

For a full list of this year’s winners, click here.

Since August 2000, SHINE has invested more than £31 million in projects benefiting almost 1.4 million children from over 20,000 schools.