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University of Leeds associate professor Lydia Bleasdale has been named Law Teacher of the Year for 2018.

The award, handed out at the Celebrating Excellence in Law Teaching conference, recognises the vital role that teachers play in educating the next generation of lawyers and rewards outstanding achievement in teaching. This year, six law teachers from across the UK were shortlisted.

Bleasdale, an expert in criminal law and justice, said she was “completely overwhelmed” to have won, and that her approach to teaching is about “inspiring students to embrace challenge and develop as people, not simply as ‘students’ in a traditional sense”.

The Law Teacher of the Year winner is a graduate of the University of Leeds LLB law and University of Oxford MSC criminology and criminal justice programmes.

Speaking about her win, the University of Leeds professor said: “I am absolutely delighted to have won this award.  I wanted to win it as a way of saying thank you to the students and staff who were interviewed by the judging panel on the day that they visited campus, particularly to professor Alastair Mullis: student education is taken incredibly seriously at the School of Law, and teaching excellence is really valued.”

“My most recent research has focused upon the importance of communities and relationships. Innovation in education is very important, but I truly believe that what defines our students’ memories of their time at university is their relationships with friends and with staff. I was privileged to have my former personal tutor, now colleague, professor Nick Taylor with me at the award ceremony.”

“I did not have an easy introduction to studying law, and without [professor Taylor’s] tremendous support I would not have completed my degree. If you had told me at the start of my second year that I would one day win a national Law teaching award, I would never have believed you: it is in large part because of him that I was in a position to, so I wanted to win it for him.”

Commenting on Bleasdale’s success, Taylor said: “Lydia cares. I don’t know if that is her ‘secret’ but she cares and that shines through in her teaching. She is a fabulous beacon of what the law school at Leeds is about. I have known Lydia for 20 years. She has developed from a reluctant law student into the best of law teachers. It is a phenomenal and deserved achievement.”

Bleasdale has also encouraged and supported hundreds of students through pro-bono and community engagement activities.

These activities have received several awards over the years, including the LawWorks Best New Student Pro Bono Project, and the Leeds for Life Citizenship (Community) Award (both for the Welfare Rights Project); and the Higher Education Academy Outstanding Student Project Award (for an in-house clinic).

Professor Alastair Mullis, head of the School of Law at the University of Leeds, praised Bleasdale for her hard work in building a strong school community, saying: “We are so proud of her. It is a truly deserved win. She is an inspirational teacher who works hard to give her students the best possible education, as well as tirelessly working on our community engagement projects. She is an exceptional asset to the school.”

Bleasdale is not the first School of Law member to be nominated for the prestigious award, with Nick Taylor, Anna Lawson and Neil Stanley all making it to the finals in recent years.

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