A Nelson and Colne College teacher who carried out his late brother’s dying wish has been named as a runner-up in the Association of Colleges’ prestigious Student of the Year Awards.

Muhammad Bilal Saleem, who teaches Level 1 and 2 ICT students in Nelson and Colne College’s Foundation Learning department, was nominated in the Adult Student of the Year category after completing his PGCE through NCC’s University Centre.

Bilal, a former high achieving ICT student at NCC, studied Law at Manchester Metropolitan University after College but was encouraged by his late elder brother Shahbaz – a respected RAF Airman, who died of cancer in 2016 – to become a teacher.

Bilal said: “Shahbaz would always say to me that I was great at getting my point across to people and making complex things easily understandable, and that I would be a perfect fit for teaching. Later, when he was critically ill, I remember he said to me ‘You are a natural teacher and you must pursue this’.”

Bilal balanced teaching hours and marking work with the hard slog of completing a PGCE, but through determination and tenacity he turned the passing of his brother into a driving force to succeed.

He never missed a class or handed work in late, and completed his PGCE in June 2018. Bilal graduated at the college’s University Centre graduation ceremony in September 2018 and wore his brother’s suit in tribute to the man who inspired him to begin his career in teaching.

Bilal said: “I’m absolutely delighted to receive this accolade and it was a particularly proud moment for me to achieve it in the career my brother wanted me to pursue. It was an honour to be presented with it on such a grand stage and in front of family, friends and colleagues.

“My PGCE was a lot of hard work but it was worth the effort. I absolutely love my job and the Foundation Learning department at Nelson and Colne College, as it is such a rewarding place.

“The whole experience has been absolutely amazing. Just to be nominated is such an achievement and I can’t thank the college enough for all the support they have given me during my time here.”

Bilal’s contribution to Nelson and Colne College and the wider community in Pendle has been outstanding. With college, Bilal has worked with employers to provide valuable ongoing work experience for his students at local companies Grassroots and Digitery, to develop life skills within his students and enhance their future prospects.

He has also facilitated and delivered additional Maths and English workshops in order to further help his students with practice for GCSE examinations resits. In 2017/18, this personalised approach worked, with every single one of his students achieving at least a pass in both English and Maths GCSE – bucking the national GCSE resit pass rate average of 33% for English and 22.6% in Maths.

Away from college, Bilal was one of the founding members of the Friendship Café in Victoria Park in Nelson four years ago, which twice a month provides free nutritious meals and support and advice on issues including homelessness, addictions, unemployment and health, as well as being a place for companionship and conversation. Bilal has also helped raise more than £20,000 for Pendleside Hospice through ongoing charity challenges over a two year period.

Gail Bailey, Curriculum Leader for Higher Education at Nelson and Colne College, said: “Within the first few weeks of Bilal starting his PGCE course and his new teaching role he sadly lost his brother. This left him devastated, but seeing him turn this tragedy into something to motivate him to achieve was both inspirational and humbling to see.

“Not only did he have very little time off work and study, he returned determined to help his students and his peers never to give up. It has been a pleasure to watch Bilal become the natural teacher he is and to see him develop and grow within his team.”

Principal Amanda Melton said: “I would like to congratulate Bilal on his fantastic achievement, his story is truly inspiring.

“Getting basic English and Maths skills is an important part of any person’s progression in life and Bilal’s superb work in this area to improve the lives of his students is both commendable and invaluable.”

This is the third consecutive year NCC has made it to the final of the AoC Awards, having won the 16-18 Student of the Year category with Lotte Gleeson and Sophie Ainsworth in 2016 and 2017.

For more information about Nelson and Colne College visit www.nelson.ac.uk or contact the Admissions Team on 01282 440272.

More information about becoming a part of the Nelson and Colne College family can be found by visiting www.nelson-careers.co.uk