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Pioneering Ilford design and technology teacher receives award for 40 years' service before retirement

PUBLISHED: 17:00 04 December 2019 | UPDATED: 17:06 04 December 2019

Edna Reilly (centre) with her children after winning The Jack Petchey Foundation Outstanding Leader Award. Picture: Rose Russell

Edna Reilly (centre) with her children after winning The Jack Petchey Foundation Outstanding Leader Award. Picture: Rose Russell

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One of the country's first female design and technology teachers has been recognised as an outstanding leader over more than 40 years of service.

Edna Reilly at the awards ceremony. Picture: Jack Petchey FoundationEdna Reilly at the awards ceremony. Picture: Jack Petchey Foundation

Edna Reilly has taught DT at Ursuline Academy in Morland Road since 2002 and was awarded as an outstanding leader at the Jack Petchey awards last week.

Edna started out as an art teacher and following a sabbatical year she took at Goldsmith's University, she shifted her focus to DT.

Edna Reilly (back right) after winning the award. Picture: Jack Petchey FoundationEdna Reilly (back right) after winning the award. Picture: Jack Petchey Foundation

When she first entered the field it was exclusively filled with men and she was one of the first women to teach DT.

Edna said: "It was very challenging work at first but most of the men were very supportive and happy to have a woman on board and introduce balance to the field."

Edna was the first DT teacher to win the DATA Oustanding Teacher of the Year in 2016 and the same prize for the James Dyson Foundation in 2017.

In her classroom she has a quote from comic artist Scott Adams that inspires both her and her students.

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It says: "Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep."

She said: "With design you have to test everything out to see how it works before you move on."

She teaches her students that design and technology encompasses every aspect of life and she is passionate about getting more women into STEM roles such as engineering and architecture, areas that are still predominantly led by men.

She said: "Girls are developing confidence to really make progress in these fields.

"People are seeing that it's more about brain than brawn."

Edna said she is constantly inspired by the work her students have gone on to do once they've left her classroom.

Some have gone on to work for Google, Nasa and recently one came back and told her how she is helping design a dam in Canada.

Once she retires after Christmas, Edna plans to take a break and do a bit of traveling but she suspects she won't be able to keep still for too long and is already looking for volunteer projects and ways she can give back.

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