Helen Sonnefeld

Tutor Award | Sponsored by Education and Training Foundation


Tutor Award

Being a tutor within the secure care setting brings its own set of challenges, but Helen’s innovative and inclusive approach allows her students to feel comfortable enough to pursue learning as adults. It is Helen’s commitment to professional development that brings out the best in her learners.

Having started working in the NHS as domestic over 20 years ago, I became an adult learner myself and started night classes in order to become a teacher in adult education. I currently work as part of the multi-disciplinary team in a secure care setting, within the Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear (CNTW) NHS Foundation Trust.

Our students consist of people who have a learning disability, people who have a mental health illness, and people who have a personality disorder. I teach Entry Level English up to level 2, alongside IT, peer support, volunteering, leisure-based awards and employability. I’ve also just completed an accredited bespoke unit in self-advocacy.

You never stop learning as a teacher and I am always working to keep my skills and knowledge up to date, to make sure that we’re doing the best we can for our learners, and giving them the skills that they need when they leave the care setting. I have just completed The Society for Education and Training Advanced Teacher Status programme.

What motivates me is being able to help people to achieve something that they didn’t think was possible. A lot of the individuals that we work with want to develop themselves and become independent. They have often had intermittent contact with education growing up, but I thrive on encouraging them and supporting them to develop a level of a skill that they can take into their future outside of this setting.

Eric, Secure Services Artist said: ‘She’s changed my opinion about learning and education. I didn’t really think about it for myself in the first place, but when the opportunity was there it made me want to learn more, and find out what I can learn, and what my capabilities are.’

Lynn Williams, Recovery and engagement lead at CNTW NHS Trust, said:

‘Helen has an unfaltering determination to ensure all of the people we care for are offered an education. She is so supportive of her students and always goes the extra mile to support them in gaining their qualifications and she also supports a small group of teachers who she encourages and motivates to maintain a Centre of Excellence.’