Whitefield School Sports Teacher, Maria Papazoglou, has been nominated for TeamUp’s London Sports Teacher of the Year award for her outstanding contribution to girl’s sport.
Whitefield School caters for those with learning
disabilities, so Maria understands the importance of sport and what it can
provide for her students. Maria goes out of her way to adapt sessions and
engage with her students in creative ways to ensure they take as much as they
can from each experience.
Maria has built strong relationships with her classes and
encourages open discussion to understand what sport or activities her students
are most interested in learning. Maria’s bond with her students allows her to tap
into the thoughts and feelings of each individual and what is required to help
them embrace sport and the benefits it provides.
To enable her students to meet new people and engage
with different situations and environments, Maria takes her students to events
and competitions as often as possible. She presents certificates and prizes to
the students who attend competitions to praise their courage when experiencing new
Maria’s dedication has led to many more girls
participating within school teams, such as hockey. Maria has also adapted games
to allow a fully inclusive experience for her class, with table cricket proving
a real success after Maria entered a team in a local competition that made it
all the way to the final of the county championships.
Maria has developed lower-skilled teams to ensure
students of all ability levels can play in an inclusive environment with those
of a comparable skill set. Fun is a key aspect of Maria’s teaching and she
often includes light-hearted games at the end of classes to keep her students
Maria believes her students should feel comfortable
within a sporting environment and ensures each sport is achievable for her
students to play, which often means removing the physical element of the game.
For example, sports like basketball can be a challenge with the height of the
hoop. Maria uses her initiative to slowly build the students confidence up by
starting with a bucket on the ground as a target before gradually increasing
Maria offers her thoughts on engaging girls with
sporting activities on a regular basis: “Playing sport helps improve the girls’
behaviour in school and builds their confidence to new-found heights. Sport is
so much more than the individual activities we play in class; it’s making sure
the girls understand the importance of having an active and healthy lifestyle
and how best to achieve this.”
Maria also comments on what it would mean to be named
London Sports Teacher of the Year: “I already feel like a winner. To inspire
the students is the most important thing for me and to see them enjoying sport
is what makes my job so enjoyable.”
TeamUp is a joint initiative launched in
2016 by the England & Wales Cricket Board, England Hockey and England
Netball. Its goal is to maximise the legacy of three consecutive home women’s
World Cups between 2017-2019 and ensure that thousands
of seven to 13-year-old girls across the country have the chance to play team
The initiative was given a significant
boost in May 2017 when Wembley National Stadium Trust (WNST) committed over
£650,000 to extend the initiative within the London
boroughs and provide local delivery support for London schools and additional
opportunities for girls to participate in sport. Schools can access this
support by registering at www.teamupengland.com and
applying for support.
Four teachers have been shortlisted for
London’s Sports Teacher of the Year Award and have been invited
to the Vitality Netball SuperLeague Grand Final on Saturday 7th
July. The winner will be announced and presented with their award during the
For more information about TeamUp and how your school can apply for London support, please visit: www.teamupengland.com.